Vancouver International Film Festival
by Marke Andrews

Even while he worked in Cuba , directing a play in 1993 and then shooting photos for a book, Lorenzo DeStefano had never even heard of the island’s most popular pop groups of the 1960s, Los Zafiros. It wasn’t until he returned to New York that he heard their music and became an immediate fan.

“I started researching them and found the two survivors, Miguel Cancio and Manuel Galban, and got their permission to do a film,” says DeStefano from Pender Island .

The film, “LOS ZAFIROS-MUSIC FROM THE EDGE OF TIME”, which has its second of three screenings at the Vancouver International film Festival today, is an extremely moving documentary of the group, a vocal quartet with a musical director. In the film, the last living singer, Cancio, travels to Havana from his Florida home to reunite with Galban, the group’s musical director.

That meeting, and many that follow, are heartbreaking, so much so that DeStefano occasionally felt like an intrude at an intimate family gathering.

“Miguel is a very emotional guy. He doesn’t hide a lot, unlike a lot of men.

We screened the film a lot an people said, ‘Gee, it’s good but it’s too much,’ and we cut out some of the emotion-filled scenes. We used two cameras, originally for the dance sequences but then also for the interviews, and the interviews turned out to be scenes rather than interviews, which is refreshing for a documentary.

For that scene where Minguelito meets Pupi, the brother of late singer El Chino, and he plays the violin and breaks down, the camera ran out of tape right when he broke down, but with two camera we got it.”

The film points out the importance music has in the lives of Cubans, and how different generations share an interest in the same kind of music. When the men make music in a park or coffee house they are surrounded by the very old, the very young, and everyone in between. “That sequence in the park was a clear example of an unorchestrated moment. People sung “Ofelia”, one of the group’s hits, and they were from across the spectrum. Their music is part of the history, and maybe some young people think they’re uncool, but some of them think they are awesome”

DeStefano, 51, says his film evolved during the shooting. “It’s very easy to do a film with still photographs and a voiceover. But it comes alive by talking to the sisters and the brothers and the cousins and the composers. We started out making a music film about a really cool group, but it revealed itself as a piece that goes beyond music and has a theme of loss. Here we have these two men, full of memory. And they’re allowed to let it all out. The extent of my direction in the park scene, for example, was just to get them to walk and remember. When Pupi cries and Miguel tells him, “You’re making an ugly scene,” Pupi say, “It’s not a scene if you really feel it,” that is such an incredibly thought. If you’re a writer you’d win prizes for that kind of stuff.