For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, screenplay by Timothy Sexton
For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story has won an Emmy for…Arturo Sandoval and was nominated for two Golden Globes and other illustrious awards.
Arturo Sandoval, acclaimed as the second in talent and skill to the other Jazz Deity, Dizzy Gillespie is the hero of this drama.
It is explained in the title that the themes are love and loyalty for the country, only the latter feeling is much more complicated that one could deduce from one sentence and in the case of Cuba, authorities and Fidel sympathizers interpret country as meaning Fidel Castro, a preposterous proposition that is imposed in other tyrannies.
From the beginning of the film to near the end of it, the eminent trumpet player and composer has to explain, justify and defend himself in front of a rather opaque official of the American Embassy, who has trouble understanding the position of the hero, the intricacies of the communist system.
Arturo Sandoval wants to defect, he states that all his life he has refuted Fidel Castro and his policies, since the dictator has lied about everything he had promised, only to find the American asking questions about the places he had worked, positions he had had and interviews given to the foreign press.
The musician starts telling his story and that of his wife, a handsome woman that he met at the extremely long bus station queue, where he had helped her get in front, claiming she is his love, taking her to her office, which happened to be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They are soon so attached to each other that she asks him to promise that he will not return from the tour he is about to travel on abroad, even going as far as to say that she would sleep with him, but only if he would not come back to Cuba.
Arturo returns, but their political views are in opposition, for a very long time, Marianela even confessing at one point that she fell in love with Fidel Castro and the heaven he had promised when he entered the capital, as a saint, promising a revolution that would bring in a new world, a new people.
When they argue about various aspects of Cuban life, Arturo is the one who has the right arguments, for when Marianela points to the education and health, it is easy to retort- “what is the good of being able to read, if one is not allowed to read what one wants”.
Furthermore, Arturo Sandoval is persecuted and prevented from singing in the club where he had an engagement, because first, he is not a member of the communist party and he has a bad image, in “revolutionary” terms and second, they have received foreign guests from Britain in their house…
On this grim background, of communist abuse, regime sanctioned killing of anyone who is a dissident and presents a challenge to the almighty Castro, there are some very good humorous moments.
One of them is the scene where Dizzy Gillespie arrives in Havana and he asks about the great musician Chano Pozo, but nobody in the official entourage, very likely formed of secret police agents, knows about him, only Sandoval is there and he offers to the God of Jazz to the Chano Pozo place.
Gillespie asks about the street- there is no street with his name- a statue- there is no statue, there is a statue for Marx…and a theater and the two musicians have a very amusing dialogue, first the American is asking what this is? And the answer is “this is my car”, to which the reply is: “you keep telling yourself that”.
Once in the vehicle, which looks bad and one hundred years old, the trumpet magician is puzzled by the peculiar smell and the driver explains that he used tar and gasoline…and the funny retort is: “you are supposed to put the car on the road, not the road on the car”.
To end with this humorous element, which is crucial in surviving a tyranny, for it helps inhabitants cope with adversity and trauma; they told this joke about Cuba, which, like most jokes, were spot on in other lands, like…Romania:
In the old days, visitors to the Zoological Gardens were told not to feed the animals, but later, in communist paradise, the sign was changed to: “do not eat the food of the animals”
There are many other anecdotes and socialist jokes- if you read this and are interested, just let me know.
Dizzy Gillespie attends a festival that is dedicated to him, in fact, Arturo explains that it is a face celebration, organized as a propaganda plot and once the famous American leaves from Cuba, the show stops.
The American genius is essential in the narrative, for he keeps trying to help Sandoval, first inviting him to travel with him, immediately after their first encounter, the singing together and the admission that Sandoval is a divinity.
After stating that Arturo Sandoval’s trumpet belongs to the world, Gillespie would even call the American vice president to ask to back the Cuban artist, who has to suffer an ordeal trying to get his family out of that nightmare that sells itself as paradise and has so many imbeciles embracing that murderous dogma: Corbyn, Melenchon, Stone and other donkeys…
Arturo Sandoval wrote the wonderful soundtrack and won one of his two Emmys for it, but he and his family have had to walk through hell to be able to compose it…