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East of Havana (Unrated)





Release Date: February 2nd, 2007 (IFC Center) by Sony BMG.
Directed by Jauretsi Saizarbitoria and Emilia Menocal.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about El Cartel, a Cuban hip-hop group who struggle under the regime of Fidel Castro.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: East of Havana, produced by Charlize Theron, follows three Cuban hip-hop artists who struggle to make a living East Havana, Cuba. They await a big hip-hop festival which would allow them to compete, have fun and celebrate their culture at the same time. Co-directors Jauretsi Saizarbitoria and Emilia Menocal show their poor living conditions and their interactions with their family. Although hip-hop doesnít provide any income for them, they still enjoy dancing to it and their enthusiasm and passion clearly shows. All of this footage from their daily life certainly informs you of what it feels like to live there, but thatís not enough to hold your attention. It would have been more interesting to interview political experts, sociologists, economists or even successful rappers who would give their thoughts on what the Cuban hip-hop artistsí daily struggles really mean on a larger scale. Itís not enough merely to point the finger at Fidel Castro as a tyrannical leader who lead to U.S. embargos of Cuban goods and allowed his nation to suffer in povertyóespecially after a hurricane destroyed many areas. On a positive note, the bright, picturesque cinematography and lively music celebrate the culture and beauty of Cuba but overshadows its social and economic struggles which should have been focused on much more.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Itís uplifting and even inspiring to observe how the El Cartel hip-hop artists channel and express their frustrations, anger and concerns through music rather than through violence.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough analysis socioeconomic issues or insightful solutions to the problems.

NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1

IN A NUTSHELL: Lively and energetic with picturesque cinematography, but the lack of analysis and insight diminishes its emotional and intellectual impact.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD


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