Venerable Cuban dance band Los Van Van gets a “Buena Vista Social Club”-style showcase in “Van Van, Let’s Party.” Eventually ingratiating despite routine handling, vid-shot docu is best pitched to pre-sold fans of Latin dance music, since emphasis on concert footage doesn’t leave much room for backstory. Outside territories where band already has a strong following, technically mediocre pic looks to have impact strongest via vidcassette and tube sales.
Started in 1969, when popular party music was disfavored by the Castro regime, unit founded by composer Juan Formellrevolutionized listening tastes on the island with its ebullient mix of salsa and rock. Current 15-member edition features many younger members (including Formell’s drummer-son Samuel and a dreadlocked singer named Mayito, who’s spotlit here), but mission remains the same: Fun, with an occasional softball political message. Lyrics tend toward the exhortative and randy (“You keep walkin’ it like that/You’ll break the pavement”). Plentiful live footage is abetted by rehearsal, studio and interview bits that add modest insight. Most compelling seg is one depicting Van Van’s 1999 visit to Miami, which drew full wrath of the anti-Castro expat community there.