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The Lost City,
an Andy Garcia
Written by
Cabrera Infante
The Lost City is actor/director Andy Garcia's bittersweet lyric celebration of Cuban culture that took him 16 years to make. Using music, literature and dance, City captures Havana in full tropical bloom during the late 1950s.

Where Buena Vista Social Club commemorated an era of Cuban music before it slipped away, City captures the moment where performers like Beny More electrified audiences with that rhythm, a rhythm that made Havana the Pearl of the Antilles.

Scripted by Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, whom critic David Thomson likened to Jorge-Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marques, City builds like a vivid tropical fever-dream; a love story and revolution set to music.

Centered in El Tropico, a nightclub roughly modeled after Havana's famous Tropicana, proprietor Fico Fellove tries to hold his family and club together as the dictator Batista's reign of terror comes crashing down around him. Ultimately, to survive, Fico must leave everything he loves.

"Recently I was asked, "How long have you been pursuing the dream of making this movie?" I thought for a moment and answered, "I guess it started the day I left Havana, when I was five-and-a-half years old," Andy García said.

"Ever since then I have been fascinated by the history, culture and music of Cuba, 'The Pearl of the Antilles.' I knew a great story was waiting to be told," Garcia added.

"Years of music and stories later, I was introduced to a novel by the great Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera-Infante, entitled Tres Tristes Tigres. It introduced me to Havana: the city and all the textures it had to offer, specifically the nightlife. And most important, the music of that world: Beny More, Cachao, Bola de Niece, Septet Nacional de Ignacio Punier, Or Questa Aragon, Celia Cruz, Lacuna and of course Freddy. It was in this world that I knew I had found the voice," Garcia said.

"Mr. Infante and I spoke many hours. The story became a tapestry of many elements: family drama, love story, the revolution, dance and principally, the music. Music is our protagonist; it drives our story and it is represented by Fico. I always considered it to be the main character in the film," Andy Garcia said.

City is every immigrant's story-a paean to lost culture. It's a time and place in history that still lives vividly in the imagination of the exile. And as conjured by Infante and Garcia, this is a land where rhythm can't be exiled. You can leave the country, but the rhythm will never leave you.

Along with its original score, City sings with 40 different songs. Mambos, chachachas, rumbas, toques, danzones, boleros. Together they create an oral history of Cuba. They are love songs to an indomitable culture-a culture that reveals itself in music, but also in dance, in poetry, in Catholicism, in African and European heritages, in Revolution, in tobacco, in Santeria and the azure sky and water that surround the island.

City opens and closes on the figure of the white-suited trumpet player, Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, who was Cuban legend Beny More's bandleader. But more importantly, just before the re-appearance of "Chocolate," as Fico watches old home movies of Cuba, we hear a voice-over poem from Jose Marti, the great 19th century Cuban poet and statesman. Marti is the quintessence of Cuba, a figure embraced by both the political left and right. He led the original fight for Cuba's independence against Spain and gave his life for the cause.

© CONTACTO Magazine
Published on April 15, 2006

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