Besides being an Oscar nominated actor, Matt dillon is a music lover who he likes to search between old records and dawn listening to them. Thus he discovered, buying records in Cuba, at Great Fellove, the singer-songwriter whose most recent documentary is about.
Fellove was a great improviser and his expansive voice conveyed the flavor of Cuba. Dillon challenged a songwriter friend, Joey Altruda, to find that musician in the 1990s. Once he was located in Mexico, Altruda thought about recording an album with Fellove and then challenged Dillon to film the process. But the recordings, both the album and the video, stayed canned for years.
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It was kind of sidelined, but I always thought it was amazing stuff, ” Dillon said in a recent video call interview from New Mexico.
When Dillon took up the project in 2013, he managed to travel to Mexico with the idea of seeing Fellove again, but the singer died a day later without my being able to see him. However, with the help of Mexican producers Cristina Velasco and Carlos Sosa, she did additional interviews.
Another of the things he got on that second visit to Mexico was access to the artist’s archive thanks to Rocío Montes, the representative of Fellove, who allowed him to enter an attic where all his correspondence and photographs were kept, with which he was able to portray a time extinct.
A nice element that so many years have passed is that it gives depth to the project, a depth that you don’t normally have, ” Dillon said.
Another thing is that it became a more personal film … I was very reluctant to appear in the film and now I’m in it and it’s quite my story. ”
Fellove, whose real name was Francisco Fellove Valdés, was born in Havana in 1923. He is considered the founder of the Cuban movement of the ‘filin’ inspired by jazz and composed ‘Mango mangüé’, popularized by artists like Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco. In the 1950s, he emigrated to Mexico City, where he had an instant but short-lived fame in the capital’s bustling nightlife. He married in Mexico and by his later years had become a Mexican citizen.
After its world premiere in San Sebastián, ‘El Gran Fellove’ was presented in recent days at the Morelia International Film Festival. Dillon said that being able to premiere his film at a Mexican festival was a kind of homecoming for the film.
Originally Dillon, who in addition to being the director is an executive producer of the film, planned to present it in person in Morelia, but the pandemic prevented him from traveling to the festivalWell, he would have had to be quarantined and he was in a shoot.
What captivated Dillon de Fellove was his voice, exuberant and cheerful, which he projected naturally. He knew immediately that there was something special about his music.
Dillon said that one of the things I most admired about Fellove as an artist was his power of improvisation and spontaneity, as he could compose while singing. They are characteristics that he also finds in actors he grew up watching like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean.
Recently Mexico has had a greater reflection on the racism that exists in the country, and that has persisted for centuries, but the documentary presents us with a different side in which Cuban musicians, especially black ones, report that they were accepted and recognized in a way that they had not achieved in their native Cuba.
Mexico represented a promised land, there were more opportunities, there was the film industry, television, ” said Dillon, who was pleased to be able to include this theme in the film while still telling Fellove’s story.
In Cuba there was also a lot of opportunity on television, but in the 1950s it was rare to see an Afro-descendant as the main artist. Someone black in Cuba was not going to be able to be like Fellove in front, they were always in the background. ”
The film was shot in Mexico City and Veracruz, as well as in Cuba. Dillon said he felt very well received while filming, both in 1999 and 2013.
I think sometimes people are very unfair to Mexico; I only had good experiences. It was incredible and I have very good friends there since then, ” said the actor of films such as ‘Crash’, which earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, and ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (‘Crazy about Mary’) .
I think the timing is perfect for this movie (‘El Gran Fellove’) because it is not a film that talks about identity or politicsNo way, “he added.
It’s a film that celebrates diversity in the most natural way. ”
Fellove and Altruda’s album, titled ‘Fellove & Joey’, will be released in 2021.
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