The documentary, THE POET OF HAVANA, directed by Ron Chapman about Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela will open the 16th Woodstock Film Festival on September 30, 2015. Opening night will also include a live performance from Carlos Varela, joined by Jackson Browne at The Woodstock Playhouse.
The Poet of Havana explores the cultural, political and social significance Varela has had in his 30 years as a singer-songwriter. A veteran of censorship battles with the Cuban government, his emotionally charged songs—raw, metaphoric chronicles of contemporary Cuban life— have drawn comparisons to Bob Dylan’s work. Jackson Browne’s translation of Varela’sMuros y Puertas (Walls and Doors), talks about how polarized we are as a society, evident in the song’s refrain, “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it.” Shot in Havana with unique access, the audience enjoys stunning concert and insider backstage moments, along with exclusive interviews with such international stars as Ivan Lins, Luis Enrique, Juan and Samuel Formel, Diana Fuentes, X Alfonso, Alexander Abreu, in addition to Jackson Browne and actor Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Traffic, Guardians of the Galaxy).
Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela started playing music literally “in the dark.” Growing up in Havana, whenever a power failure killed the lights, Varela and friends would play rock music blowing across the sea via a homemade radio antenna. In 1977, at a concert of Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés — standard-bearers for Nueva Trova, homegrown folk music that reflected the unrest of many Cubans — Varela realized music could be more than just a fun way to pass the time.
Although he insists poetics took precedence over politics, Varela has struggled with the restrictions of censorship. But while other artists might have sought refuge elsewhere, Cuba is his inspiration and has always been home. He has recorded eight albums and performs worldwide.
Ron Chapman, director of The Poet of Havana, started out as a musician, then went on to manage musical artists, produce albums and ultimately establish a film production company, directing rock videos and TV commercials for some of the world’s leading brands. At his legendary Toronto music club “The Edge,” Chapman provided a scene for some of the most exciting international artists of the day.
Chapman’s 2014 documentary Who the F**K is Arthur Fogel, features Lady Gaga, U2, The Police, Madonna, Rush, and key music industry insiders. His forthcoming film The Forbidden Shore, with performances and interviews of over 60 top Cuban artists, will be the most in-depth cultural/music documentary to come out of Cuba.
In a return to his roots, Chapman has recently completed an album of his own songs.