Miami Film Festival

Tonight: Chico & Rita Opens Miami International Film Festival

The opening night feature of any film festival is always a good gauge of how the rest of the fest will go, and MIFF could not have chosen a better film to kick things off this year. Chico & Rita marks the first time the festival opens with an animated feature in its 28-year history.

Filmmaker Fernando Trueba brings old Havana to life in a stylish film that takes place in 1948 and features an exceptional jazz and blues soundtrack. At its heart, Chico & Rita is a love story, but it also celebrates Cuba's cultural contributions to the world of music and entertainment, with the island's deteriorating political climate as a backdrop.

The story follows Chico, a talented jazz pianist who falls madly in love

with Rita, a beautiful and sultry vocalist. The two begin an

on-again-off-again whirlwind love affair that spans from Cuba to New

York. The film is awash in tropical colors and features loving (albeit

animated) cameos by jazz greats such as Woody Herman, Charlie Parker,

and Dizzie Gillespie.

There's even a pseudo-fictional retelling of Latin

Jazz great Chano Pozo's murder in a Harlem bar. Chico & Rita is an

amiable, sexy film and a beautiful tribute to the Latin Jazz movement. Spanish with English subtitles. 7 p.m. tonight at Gusman

Center for the Performing Arts (174 E. Flagler St., Miami).

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Chris Joseph