EL GRAN FELLOVE Director: Matt Dillon Editor: Jason Cacioppo
“Dillon’s film, expertly edited by Jason Cacioppo, comprises a dense assemblage of material from the Mexican visit, together with archive footage from film and TV showing musicians of Fellove’s generation, key moments of the island’s modern history, and such sequences as a TV appearance from the singer’s one return trip to Cuba in 1979. On that show, this entirely forgotten veteran won a whole new audience, as viewers twigged that this was the man behind the song ‘Mango Mangue’, covered by the eminent likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
“The film plays like a chronicle of vintage Cuban music, with musicians interviewed including pianist Chucho Valdez and singers Dandy Beltrán and Sylvia Cuesta, who talks about the exodus of black Cuban musicians to Mexico. There’s some political history involved too, notably in terms of black musicians’ departure in the 50s because of their feeling of exclusion: Fellove played on one of the influential Cuban Jam Session LPs, but left uncredited. It’s not all hagiography: there are some discordant comments from Fellove’s singing rival Melón, and some rueful comments made about how the performer’s jazzy showmanship detracted from his skills as a singer.
“The story has a happy ending in that the Joey Altruda sessions inspired Fellove to restart his career and pursue it into his 80s, with his dentist as his manager (he even did club dates with electronics and DJs – and is that really a Cubanised version of the Police’s ‘Walking on the Moon’ we briefly hear?).
Dillon’s own presence will help sell the film, although apart from his intro, he largely remains an enthusiastic background presence (it’s amusing to learn that Fellove had no idea who Altruda’s sidekick ‘Mateo’ was). Overall, El Gran Fellove is a briskly enjoyable and highly informative film – although the sheer torrent of names, faces and musical fragments might have been more coolly paced, to help the viewer absorb it all. When Fellove’s Mexico City sessions are at last released next year, aficionados might opt for the vinyl edition – to take a pause when flipping sides in what promises to be a breathless set.”
- Screen Daily