BACK TO LOS ZAFIROS FILM
March, 5, 2003
Los Zafiros: The Sapphires, Music from the Edge of Time is a documentary on one of Cuba's greatest pop vocal groups. Los Zafiros formed in the early 1960s and modeled themselves on America's The Platters, even covering "My Prayer" in Spanish.
With a near falsetto lead and close-harmony accompaniment, with a guitarist-arranger backing them, they became legends in Cuban music. Los Zafiros (The Sapphires) blended calypso with soul, bossa nova with do wop, and toured the world as Cuban ambassadors of pop.
Lorenzo DeStefano's film about them mixes vintage footage of TV appearances in the '60s with interviews with the surviving members of the group, their relatives and their still-potent Cuban fan-base. A couple of moving, sentimental musical performances are the film's high points.
It's just lovely, plainly inspired by Wim Wenders' The Buena Vista Social Club, an earlier documentary about veterans of the Cuban music scene. There may be a larger message, that Cuba's glory years in music and the arts date to before Castro, but that is soft-peddled here. Los Zafiros is all pretty tunes, lively performances, nostalgia and a vividly colorful setting -- an island of perfectly-preserved romantic ruin.