Review: La Ultima Rumba de Papa Montero

La Ultima Rumba de Papa Montero

Octavio Cortazar’s docu-drama La Ultima Rumba de Papa Montero (The Last Rumba of Papa Montero) uses rumba beats and Afro-Cuban lore to tell the story of one of Cuba’s great rumberos. As with any nation obsessed with dance, Cuba comes alive here with every stomp of the foot. Even in death, Papa Montero is resilient—buried in a local cemetery he’s now become “a dead man who won’t go to heaven.” A documentary filmmaker bemoans the banality of his project during the film’s more uninspired moments. Montero’s fictionalized segments are certainly well acted but their didacticism takes away from the overall heart of the production. This is mainly a celebration of rumba as Cuba’s heart and soul. Papa Montero and another man fight for a woman’s love and is killed during carnival. Buried in a tombless grave, life seemingly goes on yet Monter’s life and the mystery of his death still hangs in the air. The joy of Montero, though, is how Octavio Cortazar brings ordinary events (domino playing, gossip) to life through graceful song and dance. Here, the rumba becomes the cry of a group collective. A devastated Cuba is the mournful yet vivacious setting for a celebration that is seemingly observed by Montero from beyond the grave.

 Cast: Sonia de la Caridad, Jorge Dixon, Johanes Garcia, Rene de la Cruz, Rafael Sosa, Carlos Cruz, Jorge Cao, Jorge Ryan, Etiane Alfonso  Director: Octavio Cortazar  Screenwriter: Octavio Cortazar  Distributor: ArtMatten Productions  Running Time: 55 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2001

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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