The Dallas International Film Festival is still in full swing. And this year, its Latino Showcase highlights some great Latino-directed films. Looking through the list of Latino Showcase films, I was instantly interested in checking out Lavoe, The Untold Story.
Hector Lavoe was a salsa singer in the 60s and 70s who rose to stardom in New York with help from friends like Willie Colon and Johnny Pacheco. After growing up in a modest home in Puerto Rico, Lavoe found it difficult to deal with his new-found wealth. His tragic story includes depression, heavy drug use, lost loved ones and an attempt at suicide. Still, his musical talent was undeniable.
My love for salsa music and an interest to learn more about Hector Lavoe’s life had me super excited to watch the movie. We bought tickets days early, just in case. And we arrived at the theater 20 minutes early to score good seats. When we were finally seated in the theater, the movie was introduced by producer Anthony Reyes. After a quick synopsis, Reyes beckons “be patient with the movie.” All lights dim. It’s show time.
The film starts out fine, but was interrupted by projector issues 15 minutes in. For about 5 minutes or so, the projector guy rewinds, fast-forwards, rewinds again, fast-forwards. He finally gets to the right spot. It’s where a young, 15-year-old Hector is leaving his widowed dad in Puerto Rico with sights set for New York. The next scene opens in New York with Hector’s sister looking out the window of an apartment and seeing Hector. “It’s my little brother!” she yells with excitement, jumping up and down. Hector knocks, she opens the door. What happened? The actor playing Hector Lavoe aged about 20 years. Had 20 years elapsed between leaving Puerto Rico and arriving in New York? No. Was this a skip in the movie, like the projector issue before? Maybe. It was confusing. Then, the voice of this actor and the younger actor did not match the singing voiceover of the real Hector Lavoe. It was all just a little weird.
The rest of the movie didn’t fare much better. I really wanted to like this movie. I didn’t think my expectations were all that high — a good story and good music. I was disappointed. It was a little painful to watch. The acting was just not good. The cinematography was equally disappointing. The music I liked.
Exiting the theater, I see the producer, who stops me to ask “did you not like the movie?” No, I didn’t, but how do I say that without hurting his feelings? He continues “be honest.” I was. He thanks me and says the movie is still a work in progress, so all criticism will only help make it better. I thank him for bringing the movie to Dallas and wish him good luck. I hope the movie does improve — dramatically. If and when that happens, I’ll give it another go. I love a good comeback story.