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What to know: Wonderful Cuban film.
Recommended age 14-18
82 minutes
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Mambo Man is an incredible Cuban flick! One not to be missed, especially for those of the Cuban culture. Relatable and a great family film.

Mambo Man is about a Cuban named JC (Hector Noas) who is both a farmer and a music promoter, popular on the island for his music. When his friend, Roberto (David Parez), appears out of the blue with a business offer JC cannot refuse, JC is left scrambling to find fifty thousand dollars. Throughout the film we see JC and his family struggle with their everyday life. We see how poor the island is and posters of Fidel Castro, whether praising or fearing him. Throughout the film, Cuba is shown in its poverty--overcrowded, with residents looking for work for food and money. Mambo Man doesn't hide Cuba's flaws nor does it glorify the country, but rather shows the day-to-day life of the island's inhabitants.

Another plus is the authenticity: the whole cast is Cuban and the movie is filmed in Cuba. (As a Cuban myself, I enjoyed seeing these shots of where my father grew up.) The entirety of Mambo Man is in Spanish with subtitles, with people rarely speaking English. At times, the subtitles do not match what the dialogue really says. Some lines are changed, sometimes phrases and expressions aren't included. Some of my favorite scenes are those that include music, especially traditional Cuban music made for dancing. The soundtrack includes wonderful songs that many Cubans can recognize. Mambo Man has incredible shots of the countryside of Cuba, too, such as JC's farmland, and when he and his chauffeur, David (Alejandro Palomino) drive through the city and countryside.

Overall, the main plot of the film feels extremely rushed, and the not-so-needed scenes drag on for way too long. For example, at one point, JC's friend steals ten thousand dollars from him. We never meet his friend, Omar, so it seems odd to have a character who is pretty unrelated to the plot steal such a grand amount of money. Also, there are parts in the film where tourists visit JC's farm that are longer than necessary. It would have been much better to meet Omar rather than see tourists that have no effect on the storyline. In another example, JC's wife, Rita (Yudexi De La Torre Mesa) is angry with her husband about how much money he is risking, and then in her next scene she talks about how losing a huge sum of money is no big deal, and that family is what is important. We miss her character development, and it seems peculiar how in one scene she nags JC about almost losing their home and in the next she shrugs it off.

The message of the film is that family is what matters most, not money, as JC learns towards the end. There are many uses of adult language; some shown in subtitles, and some not included but still said in Spanish. Heavy alcohol and tobacco depictions are shown as well.

I give Mambo Man 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. It premieres on virtual cinema on September 11, 2020.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

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It is the story of a Cuban farmer and music promoter who gambles everything on a deal that appears too good to be true.
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