Docu "La Tropical" offers a rarely seen view of the barrio in Havana and demonstrates the importance of dance and music in dealing with pervasive racism and crippling poverty. David Turnley's choice of grainy B&W film is off-putting at first, but ultimately proves quite suitable. Appeal is limited to fans of Cuban culture.

Docu “La Tropical” offers a rarely seen view of the barrio in Havana and demonstrates the importance of dance and music in dealing with pervasive racism and crippling poverty. David Turnley’s choice of grainy B&W film is off-putting at first, but ultimately proves quite suitable. With appeal limited to fans of Cuban culture, pic should find a home in a few arthouses and perhaps on cable.

In pic’s opening, a man says, “Dance is the most non-religious ritual in Cuba.” He couldn’t be more correct: In the ghettos of Havana, everyone dances, from a 77-year-old grandmother to schoolchildren. Setting is the Salon Rosado at La Tropical, the hottest dance club in Cuba, catering to poor, working-class people of color. Interwoven with the dancing are compelling stories. One thread follows the family of a lighter-skinned dancer who forbid their daughter from marrying the dark-skinned man she loves; heartbreakingly, she winds up betrothed to a European man, her ticket off the island. Photographer-turned-director Turnley’s photos on closing credits are spectacular.

La Tropical

Production

A Corbis Documentaries production. Executive produced by David Turnley. Directed by David Turnley.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Turnley; editor, Chris Horn; music, Irene Mogollon; production coordinator, Gail Alexander; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael Jones, Judy Karp. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival, N.Y., May 11, 2002. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Juan Cruz, Benny-Daivel Perez Garcia, Ayme Ballazos Negrete, Luis Manuel Laurencio, Nairobi Garcia, Pedro Calvo, Benny Santos-Jesus Rafael, Santos Camejo Fernandez, Tikitiki-Alicia Rabas Gordin, Judyect Herrera Espinoza, Acela Rodriguez Santiago, Eloy Machado, Luis Duvalon, Miguel Ramirez, Blas Munoz, Lisette Caro, Martha Caro, Odalys Caro, Diana Caro, Aylen Munoz, Roberto Gonzalez.
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