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REVIEW: Chico & Rita

Just imagine being in Havana, Cuba in 1948. Living the wondrous life in the Hollywood and New York of the Caribbean. During this period, Cuba was the playground of White, well-to-do, Americans, in search of the Afro-Cuban rhythms, food and culture.

The story begins in a club, where Ramon and Chico are playing escorts to a couple of American young ladies. While playing host, Chico becomes captivated by the serenading voice and physical beauty of a young singer named Rita.”Chico and Rita” is a simple and complicated story of love. Both Chico and Rita are chasing their love of jazz, their love of fame, but most of all, love of each other. Chico is a talented piano player, who yearns play and create music. Rita wants to use her voice to achieve the dream life. And just when it seems that the both of them are about to be together, their conflicting loves end up pulling them apart. It is the music that remains the tying thread, which takes them to the heights of success, and down to the pain of failure, but it never breaks.

This film is an artistic masterpiece of the melding of 2D and 3D animation. The colors, uneven lines, and volumous landscapes, frame the composition of Afro-Cuban life, in pre-revolutionary Cuba, America, and Europe. As an African American, it was wonderful to see another part of the African diaspora, and see how it fits seamlessly within the African American experience. Although inescapably Cuban, there is no escape from the caste system that separates Chico and Rita from full acceptance and success. The two of them navigate through racism, hope, and dreams, no differently than that of such American counterparts, like Dizzy Gillespie or Ella Fitzgerald. What is presented is an often repeated story of love, loss, and redemption. But even in it’s familiarity, “Chico and Rita” succeeds in grabbing hearts and imagination, within its suspension of disbelief.

Please look at animation as another medium that transcends age and culture, in its ability to entertain, enlighten, and inspire. This Academy Award nominated animated film, “Chico and Rita” most definitely fits within that definition.

Originally published on Dark Matter.

Written by James Bowman 3D Animator, Artist, and Educator

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