The streets of a city with more than half a millennium of history welcomed the filming of Isabel Santos’ second documentary that intertwines the cultural legacy of the city shown in the Rumbatá group.
Fidel Alejandro Manzanares
It is this musical group which, led by Wilmer Ferrán Jiménez since 1996, inspired the award-winning artist who emphasised the need to “recognise those things that we come across sometimes and don’t realise are some of the best things about a country. This was the case with Rumbatá and Camagüey”.
The Historical Centre of the Villa del Puerto del Príncipe with more than 500 years of history, declared a World Heritage Site in 2008, became the site selected by Santos for her second film as a documentary film maker and, on this occasion, she was supported by the Office of the City Historian in Camagüey (OHCC). She said that she saw “Rumbatá on the television, then started to research rumba and its work. I studied this genre for more than a year which became incredibly complicated. A world which I’ve never come across, I fell in love with the group. If I don’t fall in love with the film, I’m not going to it”.
The maker of “Gloria City”, her first documentary film, was about a group that, in addition to its three musical productions, was also about its experience with important collaborations like the track ‘Entre la rumba y el son’ and the CD ‘El son de altura’ by Adalberto Álvarez which was nominated for a Latino Grammy in 2011.
“I presented the proposal for the documentary to the Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematography to increase awareness of rumba, a tradition of a marvellous city”, she commented. “Rumba, despite being a legacy, is not shown. There is a lot of prejudice. We are still drawing up a new Constitution and there are elements of racism. Things which we still haven’t resolved”, she explains.
“A paradigm of our popular music, Juan Formell, once told me: I would like more of our shows to be opened with rumba. Even I think of rumba to set the montuno rhythm, it just doesn’t work without it”, she adds.
The protagonist of Clandestinos, an anthological film about the history of Cuban cinema, acknowledged that, “we need to be inclusive, come together and unite for rumba. It is time to look at places which don’t get coverage. We owe a lot to this expression of music”.
Declared by UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity, rumba opens its space annually in crucial events for the awareness of the genre such as Rumbateate and Timbalaye. Their organisers sponsor workshops and keynote speeches as well as presentations in important squares in the city.
Whilst filming in this city, they realised that “each location is a marvel. We also went to the prestigious Camagüey Ballet where the director, Regina Balaguer, opened its doors so that we could experience a part of Wilmer’s life, director of Rumbatá and trained ballet dancer”.
The film maker described being involved with Rumbatá through its leader as a true privilege. “They deserve a space because they are ready to be a large
company, and leading musicians in this country rate them as the best in Cuba at what they do”, she affirmed.
For Santos, the integral attention to groups such as Rumbatá are key because “the art schools can’t handle all teaching, and we have to have groups where children learn to play the batá (drums), which is very difficult and others”.
In her attempt to visualise rumba in various locations in the city, as an integral part of Cuban culture, the artist also referred to the need to look “at areas as a small pieces of heritage, where these musical-dance expressions give life to our idiosyncrasy”.
The constant search for locations further away from the restored area by the action programme of the OHCC “has become a daily task in order to pay homage to the old Camagüey, in a lengthy piece of material, with music, and the professional photography work of Rafael Solís and the editor Beatriz Candelaria”.
“Gente de pueblo” (People of the city) was filmed in this central-eastern Antillean village and will be shown in Camagüey, after the Havana Film Festival. (PL)
(Translated by Corrine Harries – Email: email@example.com)