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Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

G  |   |  Documentary, Music  |  4 June 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 12,445 users   Metascore: 81/100
Reviews: 79 user | 48 critic | 19 from

Aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro's takeover of Cuba, are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travelled to Havana in order to bring the musicians together, resulting in triumphant performances of extraordinary music, and resurrecting the musicians' careers.



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Title: Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Eliades Ochoa ...
Ry Cooder ...
Joachim Cooder ...
Omara Portuondo ...
Rubén González ...
Orlando 'Cachaíto' López ...
Amadito Valdés ...
Manuel 'Guajiro' Mirabal ...
Barbarito Torres ...
Pío Leyva ...
Manuel 'Puntillita' Licea ...
Juan de Marcos González ...


A group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties, were brought together by Ry Cooder to record a CD. In this film, we see and hear some of the songs being recorded in Havana. There is also footage from concerts in Amsterdam and New York City's Carnegie Hall. In addition, many of the individual musicians talk about their lives in Cuba and about how they got started in music. Written by George S. Davis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

cuba | song | concert | singer | guitar | See All (13) »


Cubas Poesie Cubas Musik, Cubas Menschen, Cubas Poesie [The music of Cuba, the people of Cuba, the poetry of Cuba] See more »


Documentary | Music


G | See all certifications »


Official Sites:


| | | |



Release Date:

4 June 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Havana Rhapsody  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$127,370 (USA) (4 June 1999)


$6,997,620 (USA) (28 January 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Buena Vista Social Club album was put together by guitarist Ry Cooder in 1997 as a means of recapturing the "lost" music of pre-revolutionary Havana. The story was later made into this movie. See more »


Referenced in Depois Daquele Baile (2005) See more »


Canto Siboney
Written by Ernesto Lecuona
See more »

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User Reviews

Charming film - the people behind the music
17 October 2005 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

It's hard to imagine a better set up for a magical documentary: Wim Wenders, Ry Cooder and a group of ancient and brilliant Cuban musicians. This film tells the story of the reassembling of the Buena Vista Social Club, as a sort of composite house-band including several popular Cuban jazz musicians, most of whom had given up their musical careers long ago. Ry Cooder helped get the players together, played with them, adding his respectfully subtle guitar work to the mix, and got their album released to popular and critical success worldwide.

What I found most impressive about this film is the humility with which it was approached by Ry Cooder. Mr Cooder has done some great work in the world of music, and this must be counted among his triumphs. However, I would have to agree with Mr Cooder, that the credit for the magic of the Buena Vista Social Club was all in the chemistry and performance of its Cuban stars. To see what I mean by all of this, you should see the movie. Whether you buy the CD or see the movie first matters little. You should do BOTH.

Wim Wenders also, intelligently and appropriately, lets this story tell itself. Only occasionally does his artistry (as potent as it is) flare up - such as the scenes with the pianist (who Wenders clearly adores, and understandably so). All in all, the American / German production team on this film takes a back seat to the music, and the stories behind the musicians. I found this a refreshingly honest documentary approach and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

My enjoyment rating is 10+. I gave the film an 9 because I am sure some will dislike either the music or the proactive approach toward Cuban/American relations. It's definitely not a film for all people. Don't watch it if Cuba brings up strong negative emotions for you.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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