Chico & Rita – Film Review

Going to a theatre you usually expect to see theatre not a film. Sitting in the small theatre studio, gazing at the small screen at a distance did not look very promising, neither to me nor to my next seat neighbours. Not until the lights went off and the colourful images on the screen started to appear gracefully. The tragicomical love story of the talented young piano player Chico and the beautiful Cuban face and voice of Rita led us through an age of spirit, music, love, and torment.

Image: CinemaNX Distribution Limited

2010 is the birth year of this stunning animation, as a result of the successful collaboration of the Spanish director Fernando Trueba and designer and artist Javier Mariscal. The animation feature thrills with its artistry, realism, historical and landscape accuracy and great musical tunes for which the contribution of Tono Errando, Mariscal younger brother, is admirable.

Chico and Rita is set in 1948 Havana and depicts one of the most exciting moments of the history of jazz music – the years when Cuban musicians, such as Chano Pozo, Tito Puente, Chucho Valdes, mixed with New York based Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

The production team found many pictures taken inside the planes, ferrying Americans to the party island. Mariscal explained that the planes arriving from New York, Washington, D.C. and Miami during that period were filled with Cuban musicians entertaining the passengers. They obtained much historical information about the Cubans of that era: the clothes, the faces, the streets, billboards, cars, bars, the way they lived, and the sensational life of Havana

Working on the ten year project proved rewarding. Before drawing the locations in Cuba, Mariscal completed an intense research trip. Many of the buildings from that era in Havana have suffered from decay. However, the filmmaker discovered that the Havana city government of the period had assembled an archive of photographs to help with street repairs. Pictures of every street corner in Havana since 1949 were archived, and despite the efforts of the filmmakers to ignore the political and social injustices of the period, they manage to convey the look and mood of the era to the tiniest detail. Not less disappointing is the complex but truthful depiction of the streets and spirit in New York and Las Vegas.

Chico and Rita has been nominated for best animated feature at Annie Awards and Academy Awards, the ceremonies are to be held in a few days. Past credits are Goya Awards for best animated film and European Film Awards for best animated feature film.