World Premiere of Hugo Perez’s Documentary OMARA on Afro-Cuban Singer and Cultural Icon Omara Portuondo at DOC NYC
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the recording of the landmark Cuban album “Buena Vista Social Club,” Cuban-American director Hugo Perez is set to premiere his latest feature documentary Omara on the life of Afro-Cuban singer and cultural icon Omara Portuondo in the Sonic Cinema section at the 12th edition of DOC NYC, taking place in-person and online from November 11-18, 2021. Notably, Perez will also have a second title in its world premiere at this year’s festival, the documentary Once Upon a Time in Uganda co-directed with Cathryne Czubek.
DOC NYC Screenings:
Saturday, Nov 13, 4:30pm — IFC Center
Monday, Nov 15, 9:45pm — Cinépolis Chelsea
Sunday, Nov 14 – Sunday, Nov 28 — online (available only in the U.S.)
An intimate portrait of one of Cuba’s most adored national treasures produced by Dana Kuznetzkoff and Frida Torresblanco, Omara offers unprecedented access to the legendary “Bride of Feeling,” often described as Cuba’s own Billie Holiday, to tell the story of Omara’s illustrious, seven decades-long career for the first time. Although Wim Wenders acclaimed and popular documentary Buena Vista Social Club beautifully captured the moment when Omara Portuondo was “rediscovered” by the world, her story goes much deeper. If you’ve heard the music of Buena Vista Social Club, then you’ve heard the unforgettable voice of Omara.
A First-of-its-Kind Look at the Life of One of Cuba’s Biggest Stars and Last Grand Dames Premieres Saturday, November 13, 2021
At 90, Cuba’s legendary diva has been a driving force in Afro-Cuban music for over half a century. In the face of racism, misogyny, revolution and political controversies, Omara has used her music to connect with fans around the world in profound and sometimes unexpected ways, transcending borders while celebrating the soul of her beloved Cuba. In 2019, Omara was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Latin American and world music.
Following Omara to Mexico City, Tokyo, New York, and Havana and featuring interviews with such world-renowned musicians as Diego El Cigala, Roberto Fonseca, and Arturo O’Farrill as a springboard to chronicle her life story, audiences are brought along through the circumstances of her birth to an aristocratic Spanish mother and Black baseball player father (Bartolo Portuondo) at a moment when that meant complete social ruin, to becoming a dancer at age 17 at the world-famous cabaret Tropicana. By her mid 20s, Omara was one of Cuba’s most famous young stars as part of the all-female Cuarteto d’Aida, touring extensively and opening for Nat King Cole. Over the next several decades, she became a trailblazing single mother and advocate for Afro-Cuban women, already an icon before ever joining the Buena Vista Social Club and becoming synonymous with that worldwide sensation. As the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes has noted: “With or without Buena Vista, Omara is Omara.”
With intimate, unprecedented access to Omara Portuondo, audiences are invited to dive into her music and her life, and to explore how this Cuban girl-next-door came to resonate with so many people in so many disparate countries and cultures around the world.
OMARA. United States/Cuba, 2021, 76 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles. Director: Hugo Perez; Producers: Dana Kuznetzkoff, Frida Torresblanco, Danielle Eliav, Ann Lewnes; Executive Producer: Richard Blackstone; Executive Producers for Braven Films: Eric Laufer, Giovanna Randall; Associate Producer: Ariel Jiménez Portuondo; Cinematography: Matt Porwoll, Gary Griffin; Editors: Rachel Shuman, Anne Alvergue. Worldwide Sales: Film Sales Company.
About the director:
Hugo Perez recently completed co-directing and co-producing the feature documentary Once Upon a Time in Uganda with Cathryne Czubek which had been slated to World Premiere in the Documentary Competition at SXSW 2020. He is the Producer, Director, and Co-Editor of Neither Memory nor Magic, a feature documentary that explores the life, work, and legacy of the Hungarian poet Miklos Radnoti who died in 1944 during the Holocaust. The film is narrated by Academy-Award Nominated® Patricia Clarkson and celebrated actor Viggo Mortensen. Neither Memory nor Magic is the recipient of a 2010 NEH Chairman’s Grant. Perez served as Editor and Co-Writer for Elliot Page and Ian Daniel’s feature documentary directorial debut There’s Something in the Water which world premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on Netflix in 2020. His recent work in Cuba includes producing the national PBS special Weekend in Havana – the first full length PBS show produced for national PBS.
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