Film: “The Poet of Havana,” Narrated by Benicio del Toro


Earlier this year, C&E (Cultura y espectáculo) posted a review of the film on Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, The Poet of Havana, directed by Ron Chapman. He describes the film as “the life of Cuban Carlos Varela captured through a film narrated by Benicio del Toro.” Here are translated excerpts of the Spanish-language original. [Also see previous post “The Poet of Havana” at the Woodstock Film Festival.]

The thirty year career of Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela are documented in the film “The Poet of Havana”, directed by Canadian Ron Chapman and narrated by Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro.

The artist, 51, who will perform in San Juan on May 1 as part of a tour of the U.S. and the Caribbean, said in a telephone interview from Havana that the film includes interviews with other Cuban musicians, writers, and journalists, and highlights several concerts he offered in Cuba.

In these musical performances Varela acted with several renowned Latin American artists, such as Nicaraguan Luis Enrique, Puerto Rican Eduardo Cabra (“Visitor” of Calle 13) and Cubans Diana Fuentes and the late Juan Formell (1942-2014), founder of Los Van Van.

“More than a tribute to me, it’s a tribute to my generation, who has defended the thinking and intelligent song, which can get into the veins and bones of people,” noted Varela, who began to stand out on the music scene in the 80s in the so-called Nueva Trova Movement.

“It’s interesting to see this documentary to understand the benefit of engaged music in my country,” said the Cuban musician about the film that recently premiered at El Gasparilla International Film Festival of Tampa, Florida (USA).

About his friendship with Benicio del Toro, the performer of hits “Todo era distinto,” “Como un ángel,” and “Foto de familia,” said that he had met actor “many years ago” in Havana and that they “connected immediately,” exchanging ideas about music and film.

“In the documentary, Benicio narrates different stages of my life and his views on many of my songs and my work,” said Varela, who emphasized that people know “Benicio’s wonderful career as an actor, but not his musical knowledge.”

“Benicio is a fan of world music. What he does in the film is a very deep analysis of my songs and their influences within the Cuban context,” the artist added.

The title of the film was proposed by filmmaker Chapman, “a man who comes often to Cuba and knows a lot about Cuban music.” However, the singer does not consider himself to be “The Poet of Havana” (title of the film), as his country “has generated so many poets and musicians and it is blessed land.” [. . .]

For full review (in Spanish), see

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