Review by Steve Schneider
Stepping into the dancing shoes of "The Buena Vista Social
Club" and "Standing in the Shadows of Motown”, “Los
Zafiros-Music from the Edge of Time” sets out to validate another
decades-old musical legacy. World music, the movie asserts, may have
begun with the title group ("The Sapphires"), a Cuban
vocal/instrumental combo of the early 1960s that blended native,
American, Latin and African sounds. The act became a national treasure
and even toured Europe before coming apart in the 1970s.
The movie is structured around a reunion of surviving members Manuel
Galban and Miguel Cancio, the latter taking his first steps on Cuban
soil since emigrating to the U.S. in the early 1990s. The shadow of
political isolation hangs over the ensuing travelogue, in which the
reunited partners visit old haunts and swap recollections of how sweet
life was when they were harmonizing kings.
The doc doesn't exactly shy away from the illness and alcoholism that
helped splinter the group, but neither does it dissect those tragedies
in detail. A few dots remain unconnected as director DeStefano instead
dazzles us with indigenous beauty -- dig that incredibly blue Cuban
water! -- and solicits locals of all ages and backgrounds to testify to
just how great the group was.
There's something reassuring and proudly Latin about Los Zafiros'
enduring, cross-generational appeal. Notice also how many of the
emotionally charged meetings between Galban, Cancio and other of their
erstwhile musical collaborators lead to apparently spontaneous outbursts
of melody. All other things being equal, Los Zafiros and their disciples
obviously communicate best through music. It's a timely reminder that
shared culture can be more than just a consumer product.