GURUMBÉ: Afro-Andalusian Memories
Director: M. Angel Rosales
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/16/17
Opens: December 1-7, 2017 at New York’s Cinema Village
Of all the world’s cultural contributions, flamenco is among the most exciting forms of dance. Yet in ignoring history we are forgetting that its roots are not only in Hebrew melodies but also in the contributions of slaves that were brought to Spain centuries ago, notwithstanding the refusal of many Spaniards today to admit this. “Gurumbé” becomes not only a documentary that traces the musicality of flamenco but spends even more time simply insisting that slavery existed, with Seville as a central point in the global commerce of human beings considered by whites to be inferior. Perhaps researchers in Spain are taking a chance in uncovering some of the corruption of denial, with Aurelia Martín Cáseres’ showing that not all doctoral dissertations or written for degrees and soon buried. Pursuing her degree by writing a dissertation on aspects of Sixteenth Century history, she uncovered 2500 slave deeds, a good example of how historians are working with primary sources of information.
If you’ve heard flamenco music at all, from the touristy syncopations of Manitas de Plata to its use in religious festivals such as the Missa Flamenca, you will note that hand-clapping, an integral part of the dance form and way for an audience to join in the festivities, can be traced to the drumbeats of Africans who were enslaved since the Sixteenth Century but whose presence in the Iberian peninsula are as scoffed at as are the persecutions of Armenians by Turkey during the last century.
Most of the music in “Gurumbé” lack the tone and crowd-pleasing music that tourists to Madrid might hear at the Summa Flamenca in Madrid, the Festival de Jerez in Jerez de la frontera, the Fería de Malaga in the south, and the Granada International Festival in the location of the Alhambra. One might suspect that M. Angel Rosales’s film is authentic, not kitsch. While no interviews are filmed, various historians and academics hold forth in monologues, citing Spain’s ignoring of an unfortunate part of its history.
“Gurumbé: Afro-Andalusian Memories” is part of the African Diaspora Film Festival in Chicago, reserving December 1 and December 11 for its staging while the movie will open in New York at the Cinema Village theater. The film is in Spanish and some Portuguese with English subtitles.
Unrated. 72 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B