Chico and Rita

Chico and Rita is the product of the collaborative efforts of multi-awarded director Fernando Trueba and artist Javier Mariscal.

Release Date: 19 November 2010 (UK)

Director: Fernando Trueba,Javier Mariscal,Tono Errando

Writer: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Fernando Trueba

Cast: Eman Xor Oña, Limara Meneses, Mario Guerra

Country: Spain

Language: Spanish

Nominations: Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival

Animated movies nowadays seem to follow the trend of being family-friendly comedies with celebrity voices and slick computer-generated imagery (with the 3-D feature thrown in every now and then). Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with such films; oftentimes, they’re very good, and they possess a certain appeal that definitely finds its place in the market. Still, moviegoers who have been treated to the usual fare of such films might pine for something that’s a bit… different. Given the recent trend of decidedly child-friendly films, those movies with a more mature target audience in mind can certainly breathe a fresh air of change into the genre. Works that go against the grain come only every so often; though, fortunately, this year it does come, in the form of a charming film called Chico and Rita.

Chico and Rita is the product of the collaborative efforts of multi-awarded director Fernando Trueba and artist Javier Mariscal. Borne from the pair’s mutual passion for Cuban culture and music, the film delights viewers with a distinct artistic look and a heady, jazz-infused sound that’s bound to please both film and music buffs.

The film’s plot is inspired by the lives of certain Afro-Cuban musicians. Chico and Rita is a love story that takes viewers on a whirlwind ride through the jazz music scenes of the late 1940’s and the early 50’s, from the quaint locales of Havana to the hustle and bustle of New York, to the blaring lights and heights of Hollywood and beyond. And it does it all so beautifully. The film’s unique visual style, at times, feels almost like an old painting brought to life; and, together with the music of Bebo Valdés, Cole Porter, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz greats, the movie really brings a bygone era alive on the screen and draws viewers well into the distinct feel and atmosphere of Chico and Rita’s world.

Chico (voiced by Eman Xor Oña) is a handsome and talented pianist, while the beautiful Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses, with singing parts done by Idania Valdés) is a young, budding singer. One night, while out on the town, Chico chances upon the young woman’s performance and instantly falls in love with her. At first glance, it seems like a match made in heaven: two kindred spirits of sound could really make beautiful music together, in more ways than one. And they both get to do so, with some help from Chico’s friend Ramon (voiced by Mario Guerra).

But things get complicated: not only does Chico’s mistress keep getting between them, but eventually an American also scouts Rita and she travels with him to make it big overseas. The pair is separated, but their passion for music and one another inevitably brings the two lovers back together. It’s a tale that spans decades and continents, where one runs after dreams and aspirations in the same way that one chases after the person they love. It may not be so clear at times, but perhaps sometimes the two are really one and the same?

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