VIBE Catches up With Oscar-Nominated Directors & Illustrator Behind 'Chico and Rita'

The frustrating part about the Academy Awards (or any awards show) is that you can’t please everyone. No matter who or what film ends up winning, there’s always a group of people who think someone else should have gotten the award. However, the good part about that is that despite winners or losers, it’s inevitable that people walk away with several new movies to add to their “to watch” list.

That movie for us was Chico and Rita, from Spanish directors Fernando Trueba and Tono Errando in conjunction with celebrity illustrator Javier Mariscal. Chico and Rita, which is nominated for Best Animated Feature, is about a young Cuban piano player with big dreams who falls in love with a beautiful Cuban singer (in English subtitles). Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey brings heartache and torment as their torrid love affair goes through an on-again-off-again cycle across New York, Havana, Europe and Los Angeles, over the course of several decades starting in the 1940s.

Chico and Rita features an original soundtrack by Bebo Valdez, a legendary Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer, as well as music by jazz legends like Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and more. It’s a romantic rollercoaster ride that features sexy characters, classic music and the revolutionary spirits of Havana and New York in the 1940s. Check out the trailer below:

VIBE caught up with directors Fernando Trueba and Tono Errando and to talk about how how Cuban and American jazz musicians inspired and influenced each other and why Chico and Rita is a must see movie for hopeless romantics.

What inspired you to do an animated love story like this?

Fernando Trueba: I wanted to work with Javier [Mariscal]. I was a big fan of his art his illustrations, comics, the science, everything. And we became friends because he did the art and the poster for some of my other movies and the art for some records I produced. We wanted to do something bigger, and we started talking about doing an animation one day, and I saw his drawings and video of Havana that he had made from visiting, and I thought why do we do a movie about Havana. So we just started talking about that later writing the script, looking for the story and the characters. We love the music of Havana and jazz [in America] from the 40s. That was such a fantastic time for music and musicians from Havana who came to LA and New York to play so we felt it was important to put that in the story.

The soundtrack consists of music from Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and more musical innovators from the 40s. Talk about that era of music and why it was important to incorporate those artists.

Fernando Trueba: All these people, what they did was a big revolution. They were geniuses. Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk−they did music that would last forever. And at the same time in Cuba, they loved American music and musicians in the 40s, and American musicians were fascinated with Cuban music. So, if you look at the American people who were playing in Tropicana in the 40s and if you look at the list, everyone was playing there. American musicians and Cuban musicians were going back and forth and there was a lot of communication between them and they were listening to each other and by the late 60s, they were wondering what’s going on in Brazil. Ella Fitzgerald was singing in Rio and going to clubs there because the singers were inventing Bossa Nova, so musicians invented globalization before internet existed. They were mixing with each other listening and understanding with each other, so we decided to tell the story of Chico and Rita at the end of the 40s because in 47, 48 is when this moment in music was best.

The main characters are of African decent, which isn’t something we see much in America when it comes to love stories. Was it intentional to make the characters of African decent?

Fernando Trueba: We never felt different. The thought never crossed our minds, maybe because most of the Cuban musicians we know are from African origin, like Bebo, and in Madrid there’s a population of Cubans. But Chico and Rita had to be Black because a majority of the populations of the Cubans we were talking about were Black. These were the people we were talking about. And in Cuba, the population is so mixed so it doesn’t matter because they have 100 colors in Cuba. We are all related to each other.

In America there tends to be a divide between African Americans and Black Latinos. What are your thoughts on that and do you think someone watching Chico and Rita will see the connection?

Fernando Trueba:I think they will. The musicians don’t think about what language you speak or what color you are. Musicians were more advanced than the rest of society, especially in the 50s and the 60s. That was a tense moment in America, which is why a lot of American musicians moved to Europe.

What do you hope that viewers take away from the movie?

Tono Errando: I was in Colombia and there was a screening and people came out of the theater with happiness in their faces, so that for me is the best prize. If they have a good time watching this movie and they feel it’s romantic and they feel for the characters and they listen to great music, then that is incredible. I always see this movie as a sensual experience−the colors, music, everything. Today, there are too many movies that when you walk out of the theater and you reach the street you don’t remember what the movie was about. So, for me a good movie is one that you still have some sense of it in your memory and that some sense of the movie belongs to you and mixes with your life. And when you see the DVD, you buy it because you want someone that you love to watch it with you. That’s a good movie, and that’s what I want to do with a movie like this, to give pleasure to people.

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Taraji P. Henson Criticized For Comparing R. Kelly And Harvey Weinstein

Taraji P. Henson is under fire after she appeared to compare the backlash and response surrounding the sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein. Henson seemed to question why Kelly was being slammed more than Weinstein, and Twitter users were not happy about her argument to say the least.

Henson shared her thoughts on her Instagram Stories on Tuesday (Jan. 22). She shared a series of videos, first of her looking up the hashtag and fan pages under "Mute R. Kelly." To no surprise, she found a handful of pages advocating for the complete dismissal of R. Kelly.

I love me some Taraji but GIIIIIIRRRRRLLLLLLAAAAAAAA. Make it make sense.

— sie (@NOPussBoys_) January 22, 2019

She then searched for similar tags and pages for Weinstein, but was unsuccessful. She also looked up pages under his full name to no avail. Henson then shared an emoji along with a simple "hmmm." The message suggested that she was confused as to why Weinstein and Kelly – both of whom have been accused of sexually abusing dozens of women through their career – were not receiving the same backlash. It appeared her argument regarding the discrepancy might have something to do with race.

Twitter users were not persuaded by Henson's thesis however. Surviving R. Kelly show-runner, dream hampton promptly responded to Henson's story, saying, "no idea why Taraji Henson wouldn't know that there are not one, but two projects abt Harvey Weinstein. But this is an oft-invoked deflection. While I care abt the Hollywood stars Weinstein abused, I care more abt Asante, Kitty, Jerhona, Lisette, Azriel & Joy & others, even more." Others criticized the actress for not acknowledging the black women and girls who had allegedly been abused by Kelly throughout the years.

While there may not be pages about muting Weinstein on Instagram, the Hollywood mogul is facing consequences for his heinous actions. Weinstein was forced to step down from his company, and he was arrested in May 2018 and charged with "rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women." He later made bail but was mandated to surrender his passport and wear an ankle monitor.

Check out the Twitter reactions to Taraji P. Henson's comments below.

No idea why Taraji Henson wouldn't know that there are not one, but two projects abt Harvey Weinstein. But this is an oft-invoked deflection. While I care abt the Hollywood stars Weinstein abused, I care more abt Asante, Kitty, Jerhona, Lisette, Azriel & Joy & others, even more.

— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) January 22, 2019

All of us watching Taraji’s instastory

— Kayla Marie (@Maria_Giesela) January 22, 2019


— fads (@azuIair) January 22, 2019

Yall.....Taraji P Henson done lost her entire mind....I...

— future librarian ♏️ (@blkbravado) January 22, 2019

Harvey Weinstein has been booked, charged, etc. the purpose of #MuteRKelly is to silence his music. For him to be held accountable for his actions. I really need taraji to know better. Unbelievable.

— Krissy Brierre-Davis (@krissys_kitchen) January 22, 2019

Taraji is dumb ass bricks. She really tried to compare mute R. Kelly hashtags to Mute Harvey Weinstein! News flash, Taraji, Harvey is about to go to trial. There are people willing to testify against him. His businesses and career are DONE! R. Kelly is still out here functioning!

— Where Is Yo Scoota? Where Is It?! (@AshleyShyMiller) January 22, 2019

Taraji, why?

— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) January 22, 2019

1. Why would “Mute” apply to people who aren’t in the music industry?2. Weinstein has several documentaries coming about his allegations. 3. Weinstein is also going to trial over his allegations. 4. Between Taraji and Erykah “What Men Want” is a no go.

— M’BlockU (@rodimusprime) January 22, 2019

I wanna have a conversation about women Taraji's/Erykah's age and their obsession with "being a man's peace/shield/sponge because society brings them down enough" but I've already hit my 1 thread a day limit.

— Mári 🇵🇷 (I'm Black. This isn't hard.) (@_ItsMarisWorld_) January 22, 2019


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Kelly Rowland Becomes Gladys Knight For 'American Soul'

Kelly Rowland will reprise a multi-episode role as Gladys Knight on BET's newest series, American Soul.

The forthcoming series explores Don Cornelius' journey to creating Soul Train, the first nationally-syndicated show centered around black music, chronicling the uphill battling with record labels and off-camera drama with dancers, artists and more. The '70s set also painted pictures of the racially charged issues that plagued that generation.

It's almost as if the black entertainment channel is creating a Destiny's Child reunion, because Michelle Williams has been announced as the series' Diana Ross.

In a first look clip provided to VIBE, Cornelius is seen pitching the idea to a seemingly uninterested Knight (Rowland). The Chi-town DJ wants to create a show centered around black singer, dancer and performers.

"I’m talking about a national television show written, produced, and owned by black folks. I’m talking about bringing us — not whitewashed, not toned down, but us — into millions of homes, like it or not,” Cornelius' character says to Knight. Non-spoiler alert: Knight would eventually go on to be the first guest on Soul Train if history is any indication.

American Soul will premiere Feb. 5 on BET at 9 pm ET/PT on BET. Watch Kelly Rowland bring Gladys Knight's character to life in American Soul above.

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Spike Lee Earns Six Academy Award Nominations For 'BlacKkKlansman'

It’s been long overdue, but Spike Lee is finally an Oscar-nominated director for 2018’s acclaimed BlacKkKlansman. In addition to being nominated for Best Director, Lee earned six nominations in total, The Los Angeles Times reports.

According to CNN, the Brooklyn director will compete against Black Panther, Green Book, VICE, A Star Is Born and Netflix’s Roma for the Best Picture category. Adam Driver who stars in BlacKkKlansman alongside John David Washington is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The film is also being nominated for Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.


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A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on Jan 22, 2019 at 7:00am PST

In 1990, Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay of his classic Do The Right Thing and in 1998 he was nominated for Best Documentary for 4 Little Girls. Previously, Lee has been critical of the Academy for its lack of diversity in their nominations. In 2016, when Hollywood experienced a boycott for the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Lee spoke about the conundrum with a grain of salt.

"We talk about the lack of diversity at the Oscars almost every year. Last year people were calling me about Selma and now they are calling me again," he told VIBE. "Every 10 years we get the nominations….but the other nine years we get a drought. But I had to learn the hard way. If your sh*t is good it’s going to stand the test of time. I have to draw up my own history with Do The Right Thing. You know what film won Best Picture in 1989?"

Lee also earned an honorary award at the Academy in 2015. The Oscars will take place on Feb. 24 at The Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

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