By María de la Soledad
The Cuban film "El Benny," about the life of the great musician Benny Moré, known as "El Bárbaro del Ritmo" (The Wild Man of Rhythm), has been seen in Cuba by more than 400,000 moviegoers in only one month. And that's natural: among his compatriots, Moré is one of the most loved and admired artists of all time.
Director Jorge Luis Sánchez, has said that his film "is not a musical but the tragedy of a man who was a musician," and shows us much more about the singer's personal than professional life. Given Benny's troubled private life -- filled with booze, women and lack of discipline (without forgetting his extraordinary personal charm) -- the choice of stressing that personal life has disappointed some spectators, who are always eager to see their idol as a god.
The songs are done by a singer from Santiago de Cuba, Juan Manuel Villi, whose voice is very similar to Moré's. It was impossible to use Moré's original recordings, both because they were in monaural sound but also because the producers could not obtain the rights of the songs that were selected ("Santa Isabel de las Lajas," "Soy güajiro," "Bonito y sabroso," "Vida" and others.)
The actor who plays Benny is newcomer Renny Arozarena, who plays the part convincingly. Enough to say that he received the Boccalino Award presented by film critics at the International Cinema Festival in Locarno, Switzerland. Moviegoers should not the excellent dubbing of the songs and Villi's body movements, particularly when he leads the band.
A DVD is being prepared, along with a "The Making of..." feature. It will be released in Havana in December, on the occasion of the Festival of New Latin American Cinema.