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Review: ‘Adios’ says goodbye to Buena Vista Social Club

The documentary follows up the 1999 doc on the collective of Cuban musicians

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The celebratory “Buena Vista Social Club: Adios” is both a prequel and a sequel to Wim Wenders’ 1999 Oscar-nominated documentary, which made stars of the collective of Cuban musicians known as the Buena Vista Social Club.

“Adios” digs into the group’s roots as well as following individual members after the release of the documentary, showing how their lives were affected after they found fame late in life.

The success came as a shock, especially since most of the musicians were already into their 80s when the film opened the doors for worldwide success.

“The flowers of life came late, but they came,” reasons one of the musicians.

“Adios” digs into archival footage to show the struggle through which the group members were raised and offers a de facto history of both Cuba and Cuban music.

Director Lucy Walker honors the group and follows them through Grammy wins and a visit to the White House, where they were the guests of President Obama.

“Adios” offers an important book end for the original film and for the Buena Vista Social Club itself, which has continued to tour over the years, with new musicians replacing the fallen original members. (Vocalist Omara Portuondo is the sole remaining original member of the group.)

It’s also a tribute to the power and universality of music, and it’s abilities to unite people across cultures.

“When you remember something,” one of the group members says at one point, “it’s because your spirit is in it.” And there’s plenty of spirit kicking around inside “Buena Vista Social Club: Adios.”


‘Buena Vista Social Club: Adios’


Rated PG for thematic elements and brief suggestive material

Running time: 110 minutes