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Posted July 24, 2003 by publisher in Cuban Music

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New York Daily News | By Robert Dominguez

A playwright and filmmaker who escaped Communist Cuba in 1961, Ivan Acosta is known for heartrending, wistful works of fiction that depict the Cuban exile experience.

His 1977 play “El Super” - the film version (co-directed by Leon Ichaso and starring a teenaged Elizabeth Pea) became an arthouse hit two years later - was about a melancholic New York building superintendent who longs to return to Cuba.

“Amigos,” a 1985 Spanishlanguage film Acosta wrote and directed, is a touching tale about the tribulations of an ambitious young man who flees to Miami during the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

In other words, you won’t find any scar-faced Cuban refugees who turn into coke-addled drug lords in one of Acosta’s scripts.

“There is enough material out there about immigrants who become criminals and drug addicts,” says Acosta, 58.

“My characters are realistic, normal, honest human beings who are struggling in life and just trying to make a decent living here. They represent the other face of ‘scarface.’”

With his latest film, Acosta is again trying to show another side to the Cuban experience, but this time it’s with a documentary - on Cuban music.

“Como Se Forma Una Rumba (How to Create a Rumba)” is a 73-minute chronicle of the roots of Cuban dance rhythms that, Acosta says, is meant to educate as much as entertain.

“I thought it was important to let people know that Cuban music isn’t only what’s been camouflaged as ‘salsa’ or ‘tropical’ or ‘Caribbean music,’” says Acosta, who also produces concerts throughout the U.S.

“There are over 40 different rhythms in Cuban popular music, and the documentary clarifies where rhythms like mambo, cha-cha-cha, danzon, bolero and guaracha come from.”

Filmed in New York, Miami and Union City, N.J., in 2001, “Como Se Forma” features interviews and performances by such artists as the late Chico O’Farrill, Jose Fajardo, Juan Pablo Torres and Alfredo Valdes.

It also captures rare footage of Abakua drummers, members of a secret men’s society that originated in Africa and was brought to the island by slaves.

“Como Se Forma,” which has been shown at several film festivals, is the lone movie entry at this year’s Latino Cultural Festival, the annual celebration of music, dance, theater and art that begins Wednesday at Queens Theatre in the Park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. (The film screens Aug. 4; call 718-760-0064 for information.)

The documentary “is a perfect fit for us because it shows exactly how our culture has been preserved and has traveled across borders,” says Claudia Norman, Queens Theatre’s artistic director of Latino Programming. “And that has always been the essence of the festival.”

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