Musical biopic “Rebellion” has wrapped after a four-week shoot in Bogota, Colombia, making it one of the few pics to have filmed in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic breakout in 2020. The film about Afro-Colombian salsa icon Joe Arroyo is directed by Jose Luis Rugeles, whose previous drama “Alias María,” about a pregnant 13-year-old member of a guerrilla unit, competed in the 2015 Cannes Un Certain Regard sidebar and represented Colombia at the 89th Academy Awards.
“Rebellion’s” compelling soundtrack, produced by Alacran Records and recorded at Alacran Studios in Miami, will feature a new single cover of his biggest hit, the titular “Rebellion,” by popular Colombian hip hop band, ChocQuibTown. Its lead singer Gloria “Goyo” Martínez will sing the anthem, marking the first time a woman sings it. Soundtrack and single will be released in time for the film’s world premiere next year. Rugeles will also helm the track’s music video, which will shoot in Bogota this summer.
“Rebellion” delves into the life and musical career of Arroyo whose formidable musical talent took him to great heights but whose drug use and subsequent health issues led to a premature death at age 55 in 2011. Ironically, on the morning of his death, the Latin Academy had announced it would honor him with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Latin Grammys that year. He was hailed by the Latin Academy for crossing a diversity of tropical genres including salsa, merengue and reggae, and for even coming up with his own style known as Joeson.
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“In the film, Joe obsessively and desperately pursues musical creation, just as he pursues love. In his genius, our character creates, recreates and performs songs, without knowing if they are the product of his creativity or part of his obsessed mind,” said lead producer Federico Duran of Rhayuela Films.
Arroyo’s colorful life inspired at least two biographies and a telenovela, “El Joe, La Leyenda,” which aired on Colombian broadcaster RCN. “Rebellion” is inspired by the book “¿Quién mató al Joe?” by Mauricio Silva.
“El Joe,” as he was called, was said to have been discovered while singing in a brothel at the age of eight by a local bishop who persuaded him to join the church choir instead. While penning a number of memorable songs, including ‘Tanía’, ‘Mary’ and ‘Centurión de la Noche,’ it was ‘Rebellion,’ that became his biggest hit and became an anthem for people of color that speaks of the freedom of slaves in Cartagena in the 17th century.
Regarded as one of the most important Colombian artists of the 20th century who helped revive Latin dance, he inspired a new generation of performers, from Shakira to Juanes.
The biopic stars Jhon Naváez (“Pájaros de Verano”) who plays Arroyo, Angie Cepeda (“Pantaleón y Las Visitadoras”) who takes on the role of his wife and Martín Seefeld (“Los Simuladores”) as his manager and confidante.
Said executive producer and co-founder of the Alacran Group, Giorgia Lo Savio: “This last year has created extreme challenges for the film industry and arts across the world; to wrap this film is an incredible moment for us.”
“We are grateful for all the support we received in Colombia that have helped enable such an incredible production during such a difficult time and we are so pleased we were able to work with the industry there, which has suffered so much,” added Lo Savio who founded the Alacran Group with her sister, Alessandra Lo Savio, in 2016. The Group includes film production arm Alacran Pictures and Alacran Records, a record label with recording studios, and a publishing arm. The sisters were executive producers on Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”
“Rebellion” joins the growing list of Latino musical biopics in movie and series formats that date all the way back to “La Bamba” in 1987, Jennifer Lopez’s career-launching “Selena” in 1997 and most recently on Netflix, the “Selena” series and “Luis Miguel, the Series,” starring Diego Boneta and now on its second season.
All rights to the Arroyo songs have been negotiated with Sony Music, his family estate and Colombian indie Disco Fuentes where he recorded the bulk of his more than 150 songs.
“We got the rights to a large number of songs, many from Joe, but also from other authors that he covered,” said Duran. “We worked on these songs in the studio as well as on the set, and we will finish them in post. For this we linked Latin Grammy-winning music producer Julio Bague who selected an incredible team of musicians in Miami to record some of Joe’s hits,” he noted, adding that they had cast several musicians, some of whom had played with Arroyo, and formed an orchestra that performed various themes live on set where they set up a recording studio.
“Rebellion” is a Rhayuela Films production in co-production with Leyenda Films; in association with Alacran Pictures, WideAngle Films, HD cinema and with support funding from FDC Colombia, INCAA Argentina and Ibermedia as well as two awards from the Guadalajara Co-Production Market.