The little habanera that could, the titular chestnut of popular song is traced around the world in the warm, unaffected docu “La Paloma. The Melody of Longing. Worldwide.” Helmer Sigrid Faltin casts a net broad enough to incorporate some 42 versions of the durable tune one admirer says “makes you open up and feel yourself.” Fests will sing along, with tube sales and ancillary action in the same key.
Pic explores unclear circumstances of the song’s writing, circa 1863, by Spaniard Sebastian Iradier. “I know about 2,000 versions without straining myself,” says Munich-based “sound artist” Kalle Laar. Faltin then works her way to Havana, Mexico City, Hawaii, Romania and Zanzibar, hanging with musicians who play the song at weddings and interments, as protest anthem and torch song. German guitarist Coco Schumann remembers Nazi guards forcing his band to perform it on the path to the gas chambers, while Mexican thrush Eugenia Leon belts out a fiery version in support of a narrowly defeated presidential candidate. Pace is crisp, tech package is tidy. Laar has issued a series of compilation CDs, and the helmer has published a book on the phenomenon.
— Eddie Cockrell