East of Havana (2007)
Three talented hip-hop musicians struggle to make themselves heard in a repressive culture in this documentary from filmmakers Jauretsi Saizabitoria and Emilia Menocal. While rap and hip-hop are often cited as the most pervasive and influential musical forms to emerge in public consciousness since 1980, in Cuba rappers and DJs are still waging an uphill battle to gain official acceptance. Soandry (real name Soandres Del Rio Ferrer), Magyori Martinez Veitia, and Mikki Flow (real name Michel Hermida) are three lyricists from Alamar, a small blue-collar community, who are members of a hip-hop collective known as "El Cartel." While they have talent, El Cartel are not recognized as "real" musicians under Cuba's communist government, and must scramble for a chance to perform. Mikki Flow is one of a handful of Cuban underground rappers who have organized the nation's first and only hip-hop festival, but when the threat of a hurricane gives officials an excuse to shut down the festival, Mikki and his compatriots must find a way to reorganize the gathering under the radar of the nation's official music committees. As El Cartel search for new venues for their music, Mikki, Soandry, and Magyori talk about the rise of Cuban hip-hip in the 1990s, the realities behind their conscious lyrics, and Soandry's relationship with his brother, who has defected to the United States. East of Havana was screened as part of the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival. … More
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Critic Reviews for East of Havana
A rare glimpse of everyday life in Cuba, where big questions and obstacles confront the rappers at seemingly every turn.
East of Havana sets individual stories against the bitter, resilient landscape of Cuba's political history. For the youth in the film, music doesn't just have a purpose, it is a purpose, and the artists find in hip-hop a 'mental freedom.'
If you thought that the Buena Vista Social Club was all that needed to be said about Cuban music, now there's East of Havana, which is about the Cuba rap scene.
East of Havana lacks the grace or intelligence to let the music speak for itself.
The film makes an ironic point about Cuba: This is a land where the grandparents are revolutionaries (or at least say they are) but the kids are yearning for capitalist globalization.
There are some memorable, evocative moments, but they are spoiled by the film's obvious and simplistic politics.
It would have been nice to say that EAST OF HAVANA serves a terrific introduction to the world of Cuban hip-hop, but I cannot.
East of Havana, at its best, extols the Cuban hip-hop artist's sense of community and insistence on being heard through the rhetoric of Castro's revolution.
A powerful hip-hop song makes you want to change the world; East Of Havana, sadly, just made me want to change the channel.
Visually striking (particularly the opening and end titles sequences), the film reveals the everyday lives of everyday people, both where and how they live.
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