Omar Sosa’s Eighty-Eight Well-Tuned Drums is a documentary about the life and music of Cuban-born pianist and composer Omar Sosa. The film features interviews and never-before-seen footage of multiple performances set against the backdrop of recording sessions for Sosa’s 2015 album, Ilé.
The film traces Sosa’s origins from his birth in Camagüey, Cuba’s third-largest city, conservatory education in Havana, and relocation to Ecuador where he briefly wrote and arranged commercial jingles. Sosa’s story continues with a fateful mid-90s move to the U.S., a stint as a sought-after sideman in the Bay Area’s Latin jazz scene, and partnership with manager Scott Price that continues to this day.
Since 1997, Sosa has released 24 albums and received four Grammy nominations and three Latin Grammy nominations. Performing approximately 80 concerts on six continents annually, Sosa is known for a rhythmic style (hence the “Drums” of the film’s title) and musical influences as varied as his travel itinerary.
Beginning in 2013, whenever Sosa appeared in the northeastern U.S., filmmaker Soren Sorensen was granted unprecedented access to Sosa and his bandmates for interviews, rehearsals, and performances. Omar Sosa’s Eighty-Eight Well-Tuned Drums includes glimpses of the globetrotting artist in duo with celebrated Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, with the Afri-Lectric Sextet, and with his latest band, the New AfroCuban Quartet in storied venues including New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club.
Sosa’s New AfroCuban Quartet features fellow Camagüey natives Leandro Saint-Hill on alto saxophone and flute and Ernesto Simpson on drums and bassist Childo Tomas who hails from Maputo, Mozambique. Perhaps most thrilling for fans will be the full-circle nature of Sosa’s forthcoming ilę, which is poised to reunite Sosa’s music with his Cuban roots.
Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano: ilé
My Father's Vietnam
Documentary World Premiere: ‘My Father’s Vietnam’ at RI International Film Fest
Providence, RI (July 23, 2015) – My Father’s Vietnam (79 min., USA, 2015), a new documentary film by Providence-based filmmaker Soren Sorensen, will have its world premiere at the 19th Annual FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). The screening will take place August 6, 2015 at 2:45 p.m. at URI’s Paff Theatre, 80 Washington Street in Downtown Providence. Tickets are $10.00.
Production began with a 2006 conversation between the filmmaker and his father, Peter Sorensen, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968, a year when American troop levels in Vietnam were growing at the same rate support for the War on the homefront was shrinking.
“For my generation, sons and daughters of the ‘baby boomers,’ enlisting in the military has always been a choice,” said Soren Sorensen. “So, 40 years later, the idea of enlisting during the Vietnam War, in a divisive political climate not unlike what we’re seeing now, seemed to me sort of inconsistent with common sense.”
He added, “I was a bit naïve.”
The film features the stories of two men Peter Sorensen served with who were killed in Vietnam in 1970. For first-time filmmaker Soren Sorensen, the production process—which included shoots in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and Washington, DC—was an educational experience and a chance to get to know his father better.
“I came to realize that guys like my father didn’t really have a choice,” he said. “The romantic hindsight fantasy of burning your draft card and going to Canada had consequences related to your family, community, and financial situation that made it all but impossible.”
Sorensen continued: “Add to that the World War II generation looming large in history and culture. I think people wanted to live up to their parents’ expectations.”
The filmmaker says the process gave him a deeper understanding of the military and strengthened his relationship with his father.
“How could it not?” he said. “When you fly across the country and interview a complete stranger in Arizona about his experiences in Vietnam and he says, as my father says, ‘I’ve never had a conversation like this before,’ you realize just how silently Vietnam Veterans have carried the physical and psychological burdens of that war.”
He added, “Not only do you learn a tremendous amount, but you also gain an overwhelming sense of respect and gratitude.”
Peter Sorensen, the filmmaker’s father and one of the film’s primary subjects, said, “The film is more than the story of a father and a son. It's emblematic of the deleterious and ripple effect armed conflicts such as the Vietnam War have on entire families and ultimately the nation.”
The production turned out to be a multi-year odyssey for Soren Sorensen—who also produced, wrote, and edited the film—and Director of Photography Dan Akiba.
“Dan was the one who encouraged me to shoot the interview with my father in the first place,” said Soren Sorensen. “If it wasn’t for him, I might not have made the film at all.”
Featuring never-before-seen photographs and 8mm footage of the era, My Father’s Vietnam sheds new light on a disturbing chapter of American history that continues to deeply impact those who lived through it.
At the August 6, 2015 event, My Father’s Vietnam will be screened after Neal Mercier’s 2015 short film Amaryllis (12 min., USA, 2015), another world premiere by a Rhode Island filmmaker. For tickets to this and other RIIFF events, please visit www.riiff2015.sched.org.
Harvesting Rhode Island
Harvesting Rhode Island is a 5-part series that raises public awareness of local farming and the farm-to-table cycle through folk life studies, and by interpreting how this significant way of life on the farm will manage to survive.
Episodes will air two at a time in the ongoing series, Rhode Island Stories, Sundays at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. beginning March 22, 2015.
The series explores how traditional systems can be creatively maintained and become more of a dynamic marketplace. Introducing the public to the farmers of Rhode Island will provide insights into the complex but easily taken-for-granted process behind the edibles we consume.
Growers have had to balance the traditional approaches that were handed down to them with the variable realities of today’s business climate. In the latter part of the twentieth century local wholesale markets began to shrink due to large retailers and national distribution systems.
As a result, growers increased their direct marketing through on-site retail stands, pick-your-own programs, farmers markets, and selling through local retailers. This direct approach has, in turn, stimulated diversification to satisfy the eclectic tastes of increasingly sophisticated consumers. A large number of consumers in Rhode Island are unaware of the locations and variety of crops that are grown in the state and where to purchase them.
Harvesting Rhode Island seeks to change that by bringing viewers on location to see the farms, meet the farmers and listen to the farmers' stories.
One in seven new mothers will experience postpartum depression within a year of giving birth. Raise the Curtain: Moving Through Darkness is a documentary film that seeks to demystify the most common complication of childbirth.
“Raise the Curtain sheds light in a moving and creative way on a problem that afflicts a staggering number of women who suffer in silence with this misunderstood disorder,” said David W. Piccerelli, president of WSBE Rhode Island PBS. “We’re pleased to air this film. This is an example of our commitment to air more local programming that is relevant to our audience, and to work with the community to spark conversations and bring attention to important issues such as mental health and wellness.”
Raise the Curtain: Moving Through Darkness features compelling stories of Rhode Island families who have experienced postpartum depression firsthand.
“The symptoms and stigma related to postpartum depression are, I think, largely unknown to most of us,” said filmmaker Soren Sorensen. “Like many devastating life experiences, postpartum depression is essentially ignored until families are ambushed by it. Postpartum depression, while very treatable, carries with it shame and isolation capable of rendering new mothers unwilling or unable to ask for help, and during a time they expected to be filled only with rapturous joy.”
Families First Rhode Island works to end that shame and isolation by promoting the secure and nurturing parent-child relationships that are the foundation of every child’s overall well-being and future success. Families First conducts Moms For Moms, a program to help mothers who are pregnant or recently had a baby. Jamie Puleo, executive director of Families First Rhode Island, observed that some of these mothers could be at risk for or may be suffering from postpartum depression.
“Our Moms for Moms program offers peer mentoring, support, and friendship through weekly visits from well-trained volunteers or ‘Mentor Moms,’” she said. Ms. Puleo explained that volunteers are given extensive training and supervision in supporting women dealing with pregnancy and postpartum adjustment issues, including maternal depression.
“As you will see, Raise the Curtain: Moving Through Darkness follows the story of four mothers in our program. We hope that hearing their stories will encourage women to feel comfortable seeking help, whether they are depressed or feeling isolated or anxious with the changes that can occur when a new child is brought into the family,” Ms. Puleo said.
“The fact that Families First RI can offer mentorship and support to these mothers and so many more, at no cost, is astonishing,” said Mr. Sorensen.
Behind the Ribbon is the title of an original nonfiction television series made possible by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. Each episode features stories of patients, survivors, and those who have lost their lives to breast cancer, an illness that will affect one in six Rhode Island women.
The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation's mission is to raise breast cancer awareness, increase breast health education, enhance the quality of life for breast cancer patients, as well as their families and friends, and generate funding for local breast health programs.
Behind the Ribbon takes viewers "behind the scenes" for a chance to see a small, locally-focused non-profit at work and the crucial support it provides to Rhode Islanders all over the state. Behind the Ribbon is an opportunity for a new audience to get to know the Foundation. The program will also feature information about Foundation-sponsored programming and events and encourage volunteerism and community service.