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Recommended Viewing: ‘Chico & Rita’

Locations: Columns, Opinion Published

By Lisa Detweiler
New Castle Branch Library Associate

I love a good story about everyday people that also gives me a peek into a different time and/or place. “Chico & Rita” fits that description. Better yet, it tells the story through the rhythms of Cuban jazz.

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“Chico & Rita” is a beautifully animated Spanish-language film for adults (with English subtitles available, of course). The story opens as an older Chico hears the song that he wrote for Rita when they were young musicians in Havana in the late 1940s. The music takes him back, and we learn their story through his memories, from Havana to New York and into the present day. As advertised, “From the moment that fate brings them together during a dance in Havana, life continues to unite them and separate them, just like the characters in a bolero.”

“Chico & Rita” was released in 2010 and won nine awards including the prestigious Goya Award for Best Animated Film and Gaudí Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Musical Score. “Chico & Rita” was nominated for 12 additional awards including the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film and the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture and Outstanding International Motion Picture.

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Writer-director Fernando Trueba, pianist and bandleader Bebo Valdés and artist Javier Mariscal created this film. According to a 2011 critical review in El Espectador Imaginario (The Imaginary Spectator), ‘“Chico & Rita’ pays homage to the music that three admirable artists have gifted the world, to remind us that the island still exists and that it will always live through its music”. Idania Valdés’ lovely voice brings singer Rita to life.

According to a 2012 National Public Radio review, Bebo Valdés “worked for years at Havana’s Tropicana Club, and both played for and orchestrated songs for [many] jazz greats whose stylings grace the movie’s soundtrack.” At 93 years, Valdés played all of Chico’s piano solos, “both the ones created specifically for this film, and the ones in big-band arrangements he recorded years ago.”

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If, like me, you missed this gem when it was released, you can still watch it through Garfield County Libraries! Go to and search “Chico & Rita” to find a DVD or BluRay. You can “Place A Hold” with your library card to have it delivered to your closest Garfield County library. You can also use your library card to download or stream the film through Hoopla or Kanopy. Learn more about how to access these free apps (or websites) at

“Recommended Reading” is a collaboration between The Sopris Sun and the Garfield County Public Libraries District (GCPLD), highlighting important literature available at local libraries. “Recommended Viewing” will review films available for free through GCPLD’s services.

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Tags: #Chico & Rita #Garfield County Public Library District
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