Bette WandermanDirector’s Biography

Bette Wanderman was born in New York City. Her father was a gynecologist and her mother was an accomplished needlecrafts designer. They recognized her artistic talent very early and sent her to the distinguished Arts Students League for drawing classes when she was ten years old. From that moment on Bette entered into the world of art and imagination. She attended Music and Art High School where she studied painting and sculpting. She then went on to The Fashion Institute of Technology where she studied Fashion Design and Illustration.

Upon graduation she began pursuing her wanderlust and traveled around Europe for 6 months. When she returned, she immediately opened a small boutique, selling her original fashion designs. Her business grew very quickly and she began manufacturing and her trendsetting designs created a very independent life style enabling her to pursue many creative endeavors. iI the mid 1970s she met Robert Downey--the well-known independent filmmaker and she begin her journey into the world of film making. With him, she produced a film in 1978 called ”JIVE”. She went on to meet and collaborate, with avant-garde filmmaker Lech Kowalski. For 12 years, together they filmed and produced, feature length documentary films such as, “Rock Soup”, (which won the Golden Globe award in San Francisco, “Chico and The People” “Born To Lose” and All three films have been in theatrical release.

A Cuban Legend, The story of Salvador Gonzalez, was Bette’s directorial debut ‘When I first meet Salvador, I did not speak a word of Spanish, so I became absorbed in learning the language while making the film which helped me keep a very curious and innocent mind. It was a transforming experience to learn about the roots of the Afro Cuban religion through the art, music and ancient rituals.

Salvador and Bette both felt that their meeting was a part of their personal destinies. “We saw something of ourselves, in each other,” said Salvador. It was a chance telephone call Bette made to Sandra Levinson who runs the Cuban Art Space, that caused them to meet. Sandra said she needed a place for a Cuban artist to stay in New York, and Bette, whose loft on the Lower East Side is characterized by a constant stream of friends and family who visit, said ,”I have a place”. Three days later she was at the airport in her red sports car picking up Salvador and his wife Maritza. Bette says, ‘we connected immediately and I knew I had found the subject of the film I wanted to direct. Soon she left for Cuba with Salvador, and began shooting the film while learning Spanish, Salsa dancing and gaining a deeper appreciation for Latin culture. While Bette was in Cuba, Salvador produced a spectacular theatrical extravaganza featuring 20 of Cuba’s foremost Rumberos which she filmed and is now available as a 4 part series on DVD called “Festival de Rumba”

"A Cuban Legend” was shown in festivals around the world and opened theatrically in various cities It garnered great reviews from The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune to name a few reviews amongst many.

After the success of “A Cuban Legend”, Bette said,“I was on a high while itching to find another project and I knew the subject matter would come from my life experience so I just focused on enjoying the moment and the things I liked. I had moved the lower east side many years ago when no one wanted to be there except to score drugs or go slumming. Gentrification changed all that and the streets became filled with bohemians, trust fund babies, young professionals and Wall street types The new influx changed what had been a predominately Spanish neighborhood into a melting pot of people.

One night friends suggested we go to The Parkside Lounge, a Bar on Houston Street where a local band called ”Group Latin Vibe”, played Salsa music every Friday. We weaved our way towards the backroom where an explosion of music filled the air and couples were dancing to the infectious rhythms of Latin Jazz. Not since the 80’s had I heard music like this. The sounds were spectacular! My feet began to move and my hips swayed to the undulating sounds of the Bongos, Vibraphone Timbales and Congas and in no time someone asked me to dance.

The electrifying stage presence of Awilda Santiago was soulful, the sounds of the Tom Mattiolii on the Vibraphone were gorgeous and Anibal “Tito” Rivera’s singing while he playing Congas was amazing. The pure joy of dancing was intoxicating and I was hooked by the scene and the festive aspect of Latino culture which drew me into its seductive arms.. Before I could count one two cha cha cha I began making my next film, “MAMBO CITY”

Once again I had found a subject to document that was musical and entertaining filled with good energy that existed within a community. I expect that you will snap your fingers and tap your feet and maybe even want to get up and dance when you see my latest film “MAMBO CITY”



1985 Producer “Moment to Moment”
directed by Robert Downey Sr.
Released theatrically and on DVD
1992 Producer “Rock Soup”
81 minute documentary directed by Lech Kowalski
Sundance Film Festival IFP, N.Y. Toronto Film Festival
San Francisco Film Festival--Golden Globe award
Theatrical release: Film Forum
“Chico and the People”
Lech Kowalski Director
19 minute short film
Theatrical release: Film Forum
1994 Producer “Under Underground”
A series of three one hour long compellations of 70’s music
International distribution for the home video market
2001 Producer
“Born To Lose” The Last Rock and Roll Movie
104 minute documentary directed by Lech Kowalski
The story of cult punk rock star Johnny Thunders
Official Selection Toronto Film Festival
Shown theatrically world wide
2002 Director
“A Cuban Legend”
80 minute documentary
Music by Tata Guines Steve Turre Clave Y Guaguanco
Sofia International Film Festival - International House Philadelphia - Latin American Film Festival London - Raindance—London, Aijjic Mexico - Mill Valley International - Havana International Festival of Latin American Cinema - San Diego Latino Film Festival - Chicago Latino Film Festival - San Francisco Latino Film Festival – Trieste, Italy Latino
Theatrical release 2002
Available on DVD
2004 Videographer “Hey Is Dee Home“ A film about Dee Dee Ramone
OFFICAL SELECTION Tribeca and Lorcarno Film Festival
Shown theatrically worldwide and available on DVD
2007 Producer
"The Climate in Cuba"
a short documentary film
music by Frank Emilio
Screened at Cortocircuito 6 October 2009
Available on DVD
2010 Producer

“Mambo City”
A New York Latin Musical Story
World Premiere at The Havana Film Festival NY April 2010



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