“Chico y Rita” presented by the Spanish Film Club

"Chico y Rita" highlights Spanish culture. (Photo courtesy of
"Chico y Rita" highlights Spanish culture. (Photo courtesy of

Colin VandenBerg
Staff Writer

On Oct. 9, students and faculty gathered in Myers auditorium in McComsey Hall for a film presentation of “Chico & Rita,” a 2010 animated film produced in Spain, and subtitled in Spanish. The event was the second in a series of presentations by the Spanish Film Club at Millersville. By 7 o’ clock Friday evening, nearly every row in the auditorium was occupied by several curious students looking forward to the film. Spanish film club supervisor Dr. Kimberly Mahaffy noted that there was a “good turnout” for the event.

"Chico y Rita" highlights Spanish culture. (Photo courtesy of
“Chico y Rita” highlights Spanish culture. (Photo courtesy of

Before the film started, the audience was told that the film being screened was animated. They were also warned that “Chico Y Rita” was rated X (officially “Not Rated”) for explicit sexual content. There was a murmuring of surprise among the crowd at both pieces of news. At 7 o’ clock, the lights went down, and the film began.

“Chico Y Rita” is a Spanish-language film about two Cuban lovers named (of course) Chico and Rita. He is a talented piano player/songwriter, and she is an excellent singer. Both are jazz musicians looking to hit the big time in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. At first, everything goes well for the two, as they perform a hit song together and are madly in love. However, as Rita gets more attention from the public and music executives, their relationship falls part and they go their separate ways.

In many respects, the film is about the Jazz/mambo scene of the 1940s that was influential in both New York and Habana. Music plays an instrumental role in the film. Not only is there great music, but also the film emphasizes the jazz culture of the era, with iconic figures like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The film also explores how Cuban musicians were influenced by American Jazz, and vis. versa. The music in the film is complemented by fluid animation and vibrant use of color.

“Chico Y Rita” was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2012 Oscars, and for good reason. However, it’s difficult to really analyze the film, as standards for the arts are vastly different in America than they are in other countries. Many of those differences were discussed after the film, when several members of the audience gave their thoughts in an open forum.

As the film was co-produced by Spain-based production company Estudio Mariscal, and is about Cuba, there were clearly some cultural differences that were highlighted in the discussion following the film. The first question was “Why was the film animated?” The answers ranged from “cheaper, given the diverse locations,” to “more artistic.” Also discussed was the portrayal of Cuban Communism, and the mature content. The portrayal of women seemed a bit sexist to some audience members, primarily because Rita did not seem to have much character apart from her musical talent and feminine charms. As stated, the film featured graphic sexual content, which was emphasized to such a degree that it was labeled gratuitous. This element was explained to be a part of Hispanic culture. According to one discussion leader, “Sex is [seen as] a part of life in [Hispanic culture… much like] violence is [seen as] a part of life in American culture.” Another contention among the audience was the portrayal of Americans in the film. Most of the film’s Americans were businessmen looking to capitalize on the talents of Chico and Rita. Thus, it was said that the film portrayed Americans using stereotypes, associating them only with the qualities of greed and, as one person put it, “disdain.”

Dr. Mahaffy stated in an interview that she thought there was “good dialog” concerning the film. As stated, the sizable number of people who came to the event, considering it was a Friday night, pleased her. She was sure to mention Dr. Rosario Caminero for her role in the formation of the Spanish Film club. The club’s stated purpose was a “Latino celebration to promote cultural understanding of Latino contributions to the arts in U.S. culture.” She called “Chico Y Rita” “a unique portrayal of Cuban influence.”

Upcoming presentations by the Spanish film club include “Con la pata quebrada” on Oct. 27, “Las analfabetas” on Nov. 3, and “Bajarí” on Nov. 10.