In our final post celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, guest blogger Andrew Brown, ILL student assistant, reviews the film Zonda: Folclore Argentino, available from Alexander Street Press with AU login.
There is something for everyone in this movie.
Carlos Saura’s 2016 film Zonda: Folclore Argentino is more of a visual album than an industry-standard film. Dancers and musicians of Argentine descent use their combined talents to present a showcase of Argentinian culture (think of it like a cultural talent show). Saura uses minimalist staging with sunset-colored backgrounds to expose universal themes of tradition, pride, and passion in the people of Argentina. Students at American University can watch this film at no cost through Alexander Street Press, and I highly recommend you do. The visuals are eye-candy, and the passion behind each performance is inspiring, but I would not recommend watching the film from start to finish. Much like an album, I invite audiences to select a random point in the film and try to appreciate the performance you selected. Bounce around the film, pick random points until you find performances you like, and you will understand the rich cultural diversity of Argentina over time.
An ideal place to start is [50:25] with the performance entitled “Peña Cuyana.” You will see a handful of people gathering together at chairs and tables, as well as two guitarists and a percussionist. The singers in the room express heartache through the song “Volvere Siempre a San Juan,” wishing for the day of return to San Juan “when the autumn collects remainders of suns there at the vineyard.” I was confused as to why the song mourned San Juan, but after researching the lyrics of the song I discovered that San Juan, Argentina was nearly destroyed by a cataclysmic earthquake in 1944 and in 1977. The desire to return to San Juan connected with me in a way I couldn’t imagine; I’m sure that so many people reading this review have mourned for a place they could not go back to.
I won’t break down every performance in this film, but I will provide starting points for some of my favorite numbers. “Malambo” at [54:31] honors the tradition of Afro-Latin drumming with explosive sets of percussion music. “Bailecito” at [2:45] provides context for the musical styles of Argentina as pianist Horacio Lavandera demonstrates the tradition of Argentine piano. Do not skip “Homenaje a Merceses Sosa” at [24:08], her recording of “Todo Cambia” (Everything Changes) is a moving testament to the way life changes around the world.
The brilliance in Folclore Argentino does not come from stunning visuals or moving musical numbers, although they are beautiful to experience. The brilliance of this movie comes from shared humanity, that we have all experienced the emotions the performers recreate in front of us, and that we are no different from the people of Argentina.
Enjoy the musical exploration waiting for you.
This and other great music documentaries are available from Alexander Street Press with your AU login.