One of the most universal means of spreading joy is through music, and the documentary “Soy Cubana” celebrates the talent and passion of an all-female a cappella quartet called the Vocal Vidas. Based in Satiago de Cuba, the Vidas (Maryoris Mena Faez, Annia del Toro Leyva, Ana Josefina Hernández, and Koset Muñoa Columbié) specialize in a melting pot of Afro-Cuban musical styles, including an eclectic mix of blues, bolero, spirituals, and jazz. If you’re a fan of any of these genres (or music in general), you’ll be delighted by this song-heavy documentary. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the sounds of other cultures while learning about new musical styles in the process.
The four female subjects are a lively bunch, whose larger-than-life personalities are matched by their incredible talents. These women are true artists who sing purely for the love of music. Directors Jeremy Ungar and Ivaylo Getov follow each of these ladies as they navigate their everyday realities of life in Cuba while finding the time to continue exploring and growing their own artistic processes.
The film is simple and well-structured, starting with an insider look at scenes from Cuba that feature intimate views of the country. This is the place the Vidas call home, and a place where they make a point to sing for free for tourists. Their outdoor mini-concerts (which they still perform every Saturday) continue to bring exposure to their style of music, as well as give their group a little publicity. The majority of the film documents the women’s desire to travel to and perform in the United States, a dream that came true in 2017 when the Vidas were invited to sing at a Latin music festival in Los Angeles.
Getov and Ungar don’t always know when to cut a scene, so some of the pieces feel overly long (especially much of the concert footage from L.A. that pays too much attention to the reaction from the crowd rather than the experience of the Vidas being able to perform in the U.S.). This slows down some of the film, but thankfully it never loses sight of who the real stars are: the four women.
The directors are fortunate to have such an interesting group of subjects who all have a positive outlook when it comes to the power of music, and a passion for singing that is contagious. The film is filled with Latin music and its irresistible syncopated rhythms, and even the slower ballads are absolutely gorgeous. The name of each song and the composer is showcased with every performance, making it easy if you’re searching for some excellent downloads after viewing.
“Soy Cubana” is the type of film that will put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. Hopefully it will introduce many to a new style of music and make new fans out of all who see it.
By: Louisa Moore