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Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella

USA, 1995 (MIFF 1995)

Director: Les Blank

At the start of his brand-new documentary on master Afro-Cuban drummer and composer Francisco Aguabeila, Les Blank throws us right into the heat and passion of a 1985 Aguabeila gig at Cesar's Latin Palace in San Francisco. The drum comes alive under Aguabella's hands, spinning rhythms that are thrilling, hypnotic-that speak directly to the soul. For Aguabeila, who migrated to the USA in 1957, drumming is an integral part of his santeria religion—he's a master of the bata, a special ceremonial drum. So while he's played with pop musicians from Peggy Lee to Paul Simon, drumming for him remains a sacred passion. Blank's film explores Aguabella's drumming styles, his religion, and features interviews with associates such as Katherine Dunham and Israel 'Cachao' Lopez. But it's the music that speaks the most freely-and Blank's film has plenty of it.

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