El Sacrificio de los Pajaros is a music documentary that is being directed by Benjamin Lacour. For two long weeks, Benjamin followed a Cuban band. In his film, he portrays the artist life of musicians, motivated by their dreams and their ambitions, and often confronted with the reality of the country. Cuba is in the middle of a big transition, and the Cubans are aware of it. Benjamin Lacour needs to go back there to finalize his documentary and to continue to support this band with which he started many beautiful projects.
I think that at first, I simply fell in love with Odélquis, Liliana, Pititi, Abner, Mitchel and every character in the film.
This was happening as I was falling under the charm of the ambiguous beauty of Cuba.
Other than their music, their talent, their beauty; besides their difficulty, their life constraints and ‘limited’ perspective that are offered to them; besides the hundreds of explications that we can give…In the end it’s to their humanity, to their energy and to their talent that I want to pay tribute.
Sometimes, life guides us like magnets towards people that we must meet, with whom we have to share and create, with whom we have to live something truly important.
That’s what happened during my first trip to Cuba.
Attracted by Cuba for its music and history and trying to avoid the touristic course, I found myself absorbed in the streets by a traditional music playing on loop because they wanted to show me, Chachacha, Commandante, Besame Mucho…So many titles that their eternal beauty doesn’t seem to tell us much about the Cuba that we feel around the streets and during encounters.
As soon as I met them on this terrace in Trinidad I first laughed. Their style, their glasses without glass, their craziness.. And then especially the completely surrealistic energy of this African Cuban young man dancing and entertaining the 5-6 Germans, who were eating, as if he was on stage of one of the most prestigious festivals in the world.
At the second song, I stopped laughing…
It was so good and entertaining. It was modern, a mix that came out of nowhere. It was a hit, then another, a factory of hits and good energy that enchanted me until dawn.
I hence bought the CD that he was selling in his hat. The next day I listened to it. There was nothing of the craziness and modernity that I was exposed to the night before. I then went back to see the band.
The evening was also musically marvellous. And that generosity remained, his way of giving it all…giving it all.
We took the time to discuss, and I learned that they play here 7 days a week from noon till midnight, for a few dollars they get in their hat and then divide that by 6.
I learn that the almost 20 year old singer is going to become a dad in a few days.
I learn that it was already a big chance for them that they have the right to sing their music in this tourist restaurant…and that in fact the CD doesn’t represent what they were at all.
Their choice was confined to a recording in a small studio, or a recording in a studio belonging to the Cuban government, leaving them no room for creativity.
I hence learn to know them, and love them.
From this encounter and these intense moments spent with them I give them a friendship promise “trying” to come back and making a film with them, a film about recording “their” music, “their” album, “their” love in Cuba.
So the idea never left me. A desire that was becoming an obsession as I listened for the 50th time to the song “Home-Made” that Odelquis gave me.
I thought about solutions, submitting applications, commissions…but I didn’t have the time to wait…and then Cuba –I really felt it – was on the verge of changing.
I had promised them to come back as soon as possible. I couldn’t turn back; and anyways I wanted to go all the way, for them, for me, for us.
We went, without permits, no organisation, not thinking about the risks. I had to find them, meet them, and live with them this magnificent encounter and experience that the film portrays.
A film about friendship, love, music, Cuba and especially a film about everyone, at least those who have dreams and are ready to sacrifice everything to reach them.
This documentary was born like a love story and took me by surprise. The context of Cuba is delicate. But when we learn their reality, we discover the incredible beauty of their social position and their history. It’s not necessary for them to criticise, to talk about the past, to complain. They received many good things, and others things that are a bit more debateable. But with “so little’’, they have in them the love of life that allows them to watch the sky when the earth hasn’t kept all of its promises.
As Pititi told me “a Cuban can fall very violently, but look at the force he gets back on his feet with”.
Levante Los Manos."
The film is entitled El Sacrificio de los pajaros. The birds’ sacrifice … A tribute to these birds in a cage … The love of the cage… The hope of opening the door … And then the fear of the opened door … And then especially the beauty of the music … With or without a cage. No matter what. With the only power of dreams above the love.
The band created by this film is called « Locura con Alma ». Madness with the heart. Alma is the name of the daughter of Odelquis and Liliana. Alma that never left us. Alma that slept in the studio at her father’s feet while singing… Madness with Alma.
The Crew :
I thank Raphaël Pannier, director of photography of the film who accepted to follow me, in this madness, for 2 weeks. I thank Lionel Boyer, assistant director, assistant production, and a highly skilled translator. Both of them simply compensated by love and friendship that we lived during this adventure… and a few glasses of rum.
I thank LLG for sharing the basic impulsion with me and believing in my potential in going all the way in the things I start.
I thank the characters of the film, their families, their friends, and all of the others that let us pass, shoot, just like tourists… almost.
A few words to know who I am :
100% Belgian, I have a 6 year old daughter named Nikita and an unconditional love for my job and my passion.
After my studies in Cinema at IAD in Brussels, I worked for 6 years as an assistant director and then as an international producer in advertising. That allowed me to love my job even more, to meet prestigious directors and others a bit less. I travelled a lot and saw the human demand and needs of a film production. That also allowed me to notice what energy was necessary to create and to interact with a whole crew.
Since 2012, I stopped everything and took the risk, jumped without a safety net to go back to my real desire: directing.
I have ever since directed more than 40 TV commercials, several humanitarian films as well as some music videos.
This documentary and its reality took my breath away. I was seduced and profoundly touched by this experience.
It’s this love that I would like to sincerely share with you by making this film.
The "Casting" : The members of the band.
Odelquis Cecilia Lara
Odé is 20 years old, a star from head to toe. A star of his own life and his own dreams. Odé is a bit crazy. Odé is the hero of this life and the hero of the film.
A leader and the young charismatic signer of the band « Locura con Alma ». A former construction professor for the government, and with his 18$ per month he wasn’t able to fulfil the needs of his family, his mother, and his daughter. He then decides to devote himself entirely to music with a dream: being heard beyond the limits of Cuba and offering a better life to those he loves.
For three four dollars per day in his hat, he sings his songs in a touristic restaurant in Trinidad, 7 days a week, from noon till midnight.
Pititi is 40 years old and is originally from Havana. Older than Odelquis, he is nonetheless a little crazier than him. His multi-instrument talents as well as his producer skills allowed us to go all the way in this project despite all of the problems we faced. Without him nothing would have been possible. Also, Pititi is a poet, a philosopher who doesn’t know how to feel hate. Pititi is his own story.
Mitchel, Liliana et Abner
Liliana is Odé’s wife, the mother of Alma, the seducing voice of “Locura con Alma”. At 19, she puts her career and her dreams of becoming a singer aside, to take care of her daughter and her blind grand father.
She lives in a public housing apartment in Sancti Spiritus, an hour away from Trinidad where Odelquis works and lives.
Mitchel is an incredible percussionist and Odé’s most loyal friend. When Odé started working hard to feed his family, Mitchel was one of the rare ones that stuck around. When Odé needed him to save our adventure, Mitchell replied “present”.
Abner works in the restaurant near by. I met him at the same time and he became my trumpet professor. At 17 years of age he also plays everyday in folkloric and traditional shows to earn his living.
He dreams of going to Mexico one day to meet his brother, who left 5 years ago as a music conductor.
If he didn’t know the band all that well, it’s this adventure that will bring them closer. His parents also welcomed us in their home for our first rehearsals and Abner became an essential member of “Locura con Alma”.
"Besides the hundreds of explanations that we can give, in the end it’s to their humanity, to their energy and to their talents that I want to pay tribute to” Benjamin Lacour, Director