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  • Jun 3rd, 2011

Holmfirth Film Festival – Chico and Rita

Holmfirth has had a long association with film making, Bamforth & co Ltd made their first monochramatic films in 1898, making them one of the pioneers of commercial films. The first world war caused Bamforth’s to cease film production in 1915. They were never to return to this field of entertainment with resources now being concentrated on postcard production. The popularity of these films led to a film industry which for a time surpassed that of Hollywood in terms of productivity and originality. So it is entirely fitting that Holmfirth should have it’s own film festival.

On Friday I saw the internationally acclaimed Chico and Rita an animated film set in Havana in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Javier Mariscal’s hand drawn backdrops brilliantly capture the spirit of Havana at that time. Using a pre-revolutionary photographic archive he was able to accurately recreate streetscenes down to the bar names, street posters and hoardings.

The warm palette of tobacco’s, blue’s and ochre shades evoke Havana’s tropical climate and sultry evenings. You can just imagine the glamourous celebrities of the day sipping mojito’s in Havana’s most fashionable clubs. These enchanting visuals are overlaid with the rather simplistic, but charming, love story of Chico and Rita. Following the love affair of pianist Chico and jazz singer Rita, the film dances from city to city. In New York the colour palette becomes much cooler, the neon signs of Time Square and the snowclad nightscapes emphasize the cultural differences between the two cities.

The film features an original sound track from the legendary Cuban musician Bebo Valdes. Real attention has been paid to the history of music with scenes of Rita performing at the Hotel Nacional and the Tropicana club in Havana. Many of the great names of Cuban and American jazz make cameo appearances Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente and Chano Pozo. As the Cuban revolution rumbles and the island is closed down to the rest of the world it portrays the impact this had on many of the musicians in Havana. Chico is seen shining shoes for a living. Following his rediscovery years later by a young singer Estelle he has chance to go to the US in search of Rita. There is of course a happy ending when Chico and Rita are reunited.

The visuals and the music are what make this film mesmerizing. It’s very nostalgic and perfectly captures the atmosphere of a city and it’s music at a particular moment in time. Havana is now definitely on my list of places to visit.

Find out more about Holmfirth Film Festival here.

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