[MOVIE REVIEW]Jazz biography mostly on keyAn artist's quest for freedom in a world full of oppression has long been a favorite topic for filmmakers. In "White Nights" (1985), Mikhail Baryshnikov starred as the world-famous Russian dancer Nikolai "Kolya" Rodchenko, forced to return to the Soviet Union years after defecting to the West. The Soviet Union no longer exists, so the focus now turns to Cuba's artistic defectors (what's next, North Korea?).
The story of a Cuban jazz trumpet player, Arturo Sandoval, unfolds in the film "For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story," to be released Jan. 25 in Korea under the title "Leaving Havana."
Sandoval, who has received three Grammy awards and 12 nominations, sought asylum in the United States in 1990 and now teaches at Florida International University. Andy Garcia, who is also from Havana, stars as the sanguine trumpeter whose destiny was to play the "music of the enemy," jazz. Cuba in the film is described as "blessed by God but cursed by human beings," a country where the very air to breathe is believed to be given by Fidel Castro.
Sandoval, whose every step is watched by the government, plays "fusion" music, jazz mixed with Cuban conga, which soon becomes so popular that Sandoval can go on worldwide tours. Sandoval meets two important people who change his life － Marianela (Mia Maestro), the love of his life whom he met while waiting for a bus, and Dizzy Gillespie, his mentor (played by Charles S. Dutton), who first brought the Latin influence to jazz.
Sandoval and Marianela fall in love instantly, but Marianela is as strong a believer in Castro's revolution as Sandoval is not. The couple finally overcome their differences when Gillespie, moved by Sandoval's talent, offers to help him defect to the United States.
The director Joseph Sargent tries to tell this dramatic story by going back and forth between the past and present, with Sandoval being interviewed by a skeptical U.S. Embassy official. The frequent flashbacks, however, harm the natural flow of the story. Also, near the end when the Sandovals plan to leave Cuba, the story unfolds all too quickly and many events are skipped. The director could have used 20 more minutes to make the story more natural. Garcia, the perfect choice to portray the Latin artist, gives an impressive and mature performance. Gloria Estefan also appears as Emilia, Marianela's close friend.
by Chun Su-jin