Fernando Trueba Talks Chico & Rita
FT: Usually, you make a movie, and then you call a composer in order to make the movie's score. Here I was working with the music from the beginning of the screenplay. The story is told with music. It is about a musician, and music has a leading part in the storytelling. I wrote with music in mind all the time, and shot, and edited to the music as well... Most of the music are Bebo's compositions and arrangements, but there are some standards of the period, a lot jazz, street Cuban rumba, even Stravinsky!
BD: What was the design process like with the colors, the lighting, the characters the locales, the mood shifts?
FT: Another reason to choose that historic period for the movie was a graphic one. For Chavi, that's the time of brands, and neon, and TV and American cars, and so many things that he likes and that were interesting and fun for him to draw. And also, capturing the New York and Havana of that time, recreating this world was a treasure for Mariscal, who is usually very free style, very Picassian, very fun, but he became very serious about exact locations and places. We spent years studying documentation, photographs, documentaries, live-action movies, books, records… every single thing connected to or related to our story. That's always a very interesting part of making movies for me. You always learn a lot doing all this research.
The idea of recreating some mythic places like Tropicana Cabaret, the Malecon or the Palladium or the Village Vanguard in New York... It was really fun to do. Sometimes we took some freedoms, too, why not? But in general, we were very precise and serious about that.
BD: What was the animation process like?
FT: The whole creation and direction of the animation was centralized in Mariscal Studio in Barcelona, but we also used animators from Brazil, Hungary, Philippines and Madrid. The challenge was if they were capable of understanding and adopting Mariscal's unique style. Not all could make it. We selected the ones that Mariscal liked.
BD: What was it like working with your friend, Bebo Valdés, whose contribution was so vital?
FT: We decided to tell the story at the end of the '40s because that was a magical moment when Cuban music and American jazz really mixed and created a genre: Afro-Cuban jazz, or Cu-Bop. New York was full of Cuban orchestras like Machito's orchestra, and Mario Bauza and Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, really, were the creators of that style of music, this Latin jazz that is still around. To have Bebo with us, who belongs to that period and knew much of them personally was an incredible privilege.
BD: And your voice cast?
FT: We had an incredible cast of some of the better Cuban actors, and there is an incredible level of talent among Cuba's actors, and no star system at all. Limara Meneses who plays Rita, Mario Guerra who plays Ramón, all of them are fantastic. Many people tried to convince me to use known stars for the voices, but I felt we were going to lose authenticity. So I kept to my initial idea of Cuban actors. And I'm very happy with that.
BD: What were the hardest moments overall?
FT: Well, I think that financing the movie and finding the money takes time, and is long and sometimes painful. You have to deal so much with lawyers that there are moments that were really difficult. In my life, I try to avoid lawyers and psychiatrists. They don't belong to my world.
BD: And some of the happy surprises?