NUESTRA COSA/OUR LATIN THING
Nuestra Cosa/Out Latin Thing is a musical documentary revealing the exciting lifestyle of New York Latinos during the decade of the 1970s. It was filmed at a concert of the Fania Allstars at Club Cheetah and throughout New York City.
On July 19 1972, the first few images flickering on the screen at the premiere of Our Latin Thing in New York's Line 2 cinema brilliantly articulated the movie's mood and sucked in its audience: From a Spanish Harlem rooftop, a Hispanic boy watches the street below.
Conga beats rumble like distant thunder. Racing down to street level, the youngster kicks an empty can. Immediately, Luis Cruz's electric piano wah-wah chords burst into life, launching the majestic soul of Ray Barretto's "Cocinando."
The bright tints of the boy's T-shirt are reflected in the colourful graffiti: "JERRY MASUCCI PRESENTS" - "STARRING THE FANIA ALL STARS" - "UNDER THE MUSICAL DIRECTION OF JOHNNY PACHECO." The camera trails the boy across New York's El Barrio, through wire meshes, into unlit basements, over rubbish-filled stoops, past chucky Chevrolets into a burnt-out block where the neighborhood is jamming. It's a fantastic percussive groove. Their pride and confidence are tangible.
Our Latin Thing is about the urban Hispanic experience - NYC style. In addition to the musical performances, the film also captures illegal cockfights, a Santeria ritual and the everyday rhythms of El Barrio.
The Fania All-Stars were filmed for the documentary "Our Latin Thing". Leon Gast, who directed the film, is an Academy Award winning director of the documentary of Ali's days in Africa prior to the "Rumble in the Jungle". Gast was there to film the concert associated with the performance, which included the Fania All-Stars.
Youtube of Fania All Stars -- Nuestra Cosa, 1971: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3alcsRHhtsY&feature=related
1972 NY Times Review of "Our Latin Thing", by ROGER GREENSPUN:
The musical-event movie--from Woodstock to Altamont to Big Sur and beyond--has become such a commonplace in the last few years that it is unusual and refreshing to see a film about a pop concert that makes no serious claims to be sociology or world history. Leon Gast's "Our Latin Thing" has much smaller ambitions and it would generally be fair to say that the film is not so much a documentary as an elaborate, rather free form, production.
Almost everybody who receives a credit in "Our Latin Thing" is a musician or a disc jockey, and almost all the musicians work for Fania Records--who seem responsible for the movie and the record and the tape cassettes and the souvenir booklet and the "Our Latin Thing" T-shirts that have been appearing around town. Fania sponsored the concert--last August, at Cheetah--where the principal footage was shot, and what they have now is a fairly presentable showcase for their stars. These include a lot of people, like Ray Barretto, the conga player, and Larry Harlow, the pianist, and Johnny Pacheco on the flute, who sound good to me. Some of the songs are very long, up to 16 minutes, and the lyrics, which are not translated, are likely to leave you bewildered if you don't know Spanish.
"Our Latin Thing" does, alas, bill itself as "revealing the Latin life in N.Y.C." And to this end it intermittently goes into the community to film domino games, shaved-ice vending, cockfighting and blocks where the city sanitation sweepers seem never to have visited. Some of this material is interesting, much is gratuitous, and all of it seems dedicated to solving the problem of how to alleviate the tedium involved in photographing a musical performance.
I don't think that Leon Cast's solutions are very successful -- but I don't think that any other director's solutions have been either -- and "Our Latin Thing" at least avoids the camera and lab tricks so often used to make a group of people playing, or listening or informally dancing to music seem visually important. It is surely valuable to get musicians--whether the Juilliard Quartet, the Rolling Stones or the Fania Records All-Stars -- down on film. But it is a specialized value, more limited than a live concert or a great recording. And it is not altogether comfortable in a medium the strengths of which lie elsewhere.
OUR LATIN THING, a musical documentary of the Latin life style in New York City directed by Leon J. Gast; written by Izzy Sanabria; film editor, Victor Kanefsky; photography, Jose Florez, Mr. Lee and Bill Lenahan; produced by Jerry Masucci; released by A and R Film Distributors. At the Cine 2 Theater, 48th Street and Broadway. Running time: 100 minutes. This film has not been classified.
With: Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentin, Santos Colon, Hector Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Pete (El Conde) Rodriguez, Adalberto Santiago, Bobby Cruz, Jose (Cheo) Feliciano, Ricardo Ray, Renaldo Jorge, Roberto Rodriguez, Barry Rodgers, Larry Spencer, Yomo Toro, Orestes Vilato, Hector Zarzuela, Symphony Sid and Dizzy Izzy Sanabria.
Bolding added by BAILA Society
Sources: NY Times; Fania; Allmusic; Amazon; Musica Boricua;