Fernando Trueba Talks Chico & Rita
Set in Havana and New York during the end of the 1940s, Chico & Rita tells the story of love and heartbreak between a pianist and a singer. Directed by Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba, the GKIDS release is a joint production between Spain's companies Fernando Trueba PC and Estudio Mariscal, and Britain's Magic Light Pictures, led by Michael Rose, formerly with Aardman. The soundtrack by legendary Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés takes us back to the origins of Latin jazz when Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker started fusing Cuban music into their compositions. Trueba talks about the journey.
Bill Desowitz: How did this come about?
Fernando Trueba: I had collaborated with Mariscal in two of my other movies, Calle 54 and Miracle of Candeal, in which he had designed the graphics, poster, and also in the records I produced, some of them with Bebo Valdés. And through all these collaborations our friendship was growing and we start talking about the dream of making a movie together. And when we started these discussions, we knew from the beginning that it had to be about Cuba, not just because we both knew and loved Cuba and its music, but because I have seen the drawings of Old Havana made by Chavi (Mariscal) and loved them.
So I told him, "We should make a movie there. Not in Havana, but in this Havana." Well, Mariscal was responsible for creating characters and sets, for the recreation of Havana, New York, the plastic, the art and the colors, and I was in charge of the script, the actors' direction, the creation of the storyboard and the production of the music. Tono Errando, who is the young brother of Mariscal, has been in charge of audiovisual work at Mariscal's studio for years, so he was the natural person to conduct the crew day-to-day, with a good understanding of Mariscal's style and visual world, and my previous movies.
BD: How did the story come about? And how did you prepare, including your four-week shoot in Havana?
FT: In my life, I have met a lot of people from Cuba, and some of them became good friends: novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, bassist and creator of mambo Cachao, but especially pianist, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés. He's now 93 and Chico & Rita was his last work. But before that, we did Calle 54 and Miracle of Candeal and Blanco y Negro, and he even appears in Shanghai Spell. And apart from my movies, I produced several records of him solo on piano, or with different duos, big bands, nonets, trios. Chico & Rita is like the final result of our friendship of all these years, and even if it's not his biography at all, he was the main inspiration for us. I don't think we would have ever had made a movie like this if it not for our relationship with Bebo.
In terms of the film shoot, in Havana we worked with very good Cuban actors, and the shooting was done at the Cinema School of San Antonio de los Baños, near Havana, where I had been giving classes for future directors some months before.
BD: Talk about prioritizing and balancing the music with the love story.