Buena Vista Social Club



Cuban musicians tell their life stories.
  • Review Date: October 18, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Very positive and inspirational representations of the elderly and of people working together as a group.

Not applicable

A few song lyrics imply sexuality.

Not applicable

Some window shopping in New York.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some cigar smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary film is in Spanish and subtitled in English. Aside from a few men, smoking cigars, there is very little objectionable content. The film is rather slow and requires a good deal of attention to follow.

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What's the story?

This film pays tribute to one of the most significant bands in Cuban history -- the Buena Vista Social Club. Virtually forgotten by the country that reared them, members of the group are reunited by Ry Cooder to record a final CD. The story's trajectory takes viewers from the run-down streets and rusty cars of Havana, to the flashing lights of New York City and opulence of Carnegie Hall. Part live musical performance, part fractured biography (the stories of 10 members are packed into 1 ½ hours), BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB paints, with very broad strokes, a portrait of a musical group whose members' passion for life and music is inspirational.

Is it any good?


Buena Vista Social Club offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to not only expose their children to diverse musical styles, but also to examples of people who, even in their twilight years (some in their nineties), are very passionate and active musicians. Their unique perspectives on growing up as musicians in their native Cuba allow us to appreciate their talent to its fullest. Note: This film steers clear of any overt political commentary or controversy involving the island nation. The closest it comes is a brief account of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara playing golf. It's appropriate for all ages, although younger children might be bored by its pace.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the cultural diversity featured in the film. How do the lives of the members of the Buena Vista Social Club relate to ours at home? How does music play a role in our everyday experiences? What kind of life lessons can we draw from the film?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 21, 1999
DVD release date:December 14, 1999
Cast:Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzales
Director:Wim Wenders
Studio:Artisan Entertainment
Topics:Music and sing-along
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:G
MPAA explanation:general audiences

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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