J.B. of J.B Spins last night attended a screening of and has posted his first impressions:
East of Havana follows three young Cuban Hip-Hop artists who have formed their own musicians union, El Cartel, outside of the state music system. They are looking forward to Cuba’s international Hip-Hop festival, a rare opportunity for their music to come out from underground. It seems Hip-Hop in Cuba is in an analogous position to that of jazz in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. While usually suffering from malignant neglect to outright hostility, the music’s “proletarian” roots allows for occasional sanction for state sponsored international events (which of course, serve a propaganda purpose).
While the press materials carefully try to position the film between “the twin carcasses of Castroite Communism and the Bush-backed exiles,” in the words of in the words of The Independent (UK), it is hard to argue with the most ardent critic of Castro after seeing the living conditions documented in the film. Nobody has anything to say about all that great free healthcare Castro provides, but one of the young rapper’s mother tellingly jokes about cooking entire meals from three garlic cloves. Ah yes, the fruits of revolution.
Watching East clearly illustrates the legacy of Castro. He has turned the island into a slum. In his urban blight, Hip-Hop, the contemporary music of urban angst naturally thrives. Cuban youths are seen wearing Tupac t-shirts in much the same way their western counterparts wear the image of Che. However, the Tupac enthusiasm is more understandable and appropriate to the circumstances faced by El Cartel
Read his whole post here.
J.B. says the movie is set for release in January.
Meanwhile, listen to and watch El Cartel for yourself: