By David Schmeichel
sun – aug 18, 2006


To many, Los Zafiros were like the Cuban equivalent of the Beatles.

Really, they were more like the Cuban Platters, what with their tenderly emotive mix of calypso and African beats, street corner doo-wop harmonies, Motown suits and dance steps.

But in their native Cuba during the ‘60s and ‘70s, Los Zafiros (The Sapphires) were the only band that mattered. And in this documentary, shot with a loving eye by producer/director Lorenzo DeStefano and charting the quintet’s history from the hedonistic early years to the present day, it’s fairly easy to see why.

The band members’ effortless musicianship and Latin-lover sex appeal prompted female fans to chase them with scissors in hand (hoping to score a lock of hair), while their repertoire made them modern-day folk heroes to nearly everyone within earshot.

Today, three of the five are dead, leaving DeStefano sitting on a veritable goldmine of tear-jerkery as the two survivors reunite in Havana.

Thankfully, he doesn’t resort to maudlin manipulation, preferring instead to let the real emotions take us for a ride.

There are scenes of heartbreaking poignancy here, like the one where Miguel Cancio and Manuel Galban (who plays in Buena Vista Social Club) tour the gravesites of their colleagues, or the scene where Miguel visits a former band-mate’s brother, only to break down in tears.

But there are also scenes that will bring a smile to your face; most notably the musical sequences – riveting archival footage mixed with shots of the living Zafiros playing for an adoring crowd.

Towards the end of the film, Miguel Cancio looks wistfully at the ring from which The Sapphires derived their name, thankful he has such an “impenetrable memento” of his time with the band.

We should be grateful, too. We have this.