Say what you will about Castro’s Cuba, yet one thing is certain: the arts have flourished…consistently.
‘Chico y Rita’ is an animated film from Cuba. Simply, it’s a boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and in the end boy finds girl. More subtly, the narrative is a nuanced exploration of jazz and racism in pre revolutionary Cuba and the US.
Chico and Rita are black, you see. Rita makes it big in the States, but like ‘Negroes’ way back then, in film, they had 15 minutes of fame in novelty numbers.
Broken hearted, Rita steps on stage in Las Vegas and denounces the everyday slights she faces as a coloured artist. She cannot stay in the very hotel she’s playing in, but every night has to go to an out of the way motel to sleep. Her words kill her career. [Billy Holliday at New York’s Taft Hotel had to ride the service elevator to get to her gig, remember!]
Chico, the love of her live, is deported for drug possession; he was set up by Rita’s white agent who saw in her marriage to Chico the loss of his meal ticket.
This animated film is not only critical of the US, but takes shot at revolutionary Cuba, as well.
The film’s song was up for an Oscar in 2012, but did not win. Even so, ‘Chico y Rita’ is worth more than the price of admission on many levels.