New York Times review

“A Cuban Legend”
The Story of Salvador Gonzalez

Directed by Bette Wanderman
In English and Spanish, with English subtitles
79 minutes

“A Cuban Legend”, The Story of Salvador Gonzalez,” opening today in Manhattan,  is an engaging, uncritical portrait of an artist who transformed a run-down neighborhood. Lively, colorful and music-filled, Bette Wandermsn’s documentary is at the same time,  a travelogue and an introduction to the Afro-Cuban music and religion.

Mr. Gonzalez, a curly-haired, bearded cigar-smoking muralist and sculptor seen at work and at leisure in Havana, New York and Philadelphia. He has been strongly influenced as a man and as an artist by his African heritage and the Yorban Gods and Goddesses and saints of  Santeria, which fuses Afro-Cuban and Roman Catholic elements of religion.These influences along with Picasso, Miro and Dali, among others, are manifest in his work.

His masterwork, the setting for most of the film, spreads over two blocks in central Havana, in an area called Callejon de Hamel (Hamels’ Alley) There, in a monument to Afro-Cuban culture, Mr.Gonzalez covered the walls, doors and windows of buildings with this enormous sculptures made of found objects like bathtubs and water pumps. He has erected religious shrines and made the place,once a littered slum into a site for performance of dance and music.

“A Cuban Legend”, follows Mr. Gonzalez to Manhattan, where he creates a new mural in the old Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side, and back to Havana where he discuses his heritage, paints, gathers materials for a performance and for his sculptures and discusses the evolution of Rumba with his musician friends before he returns to New York and Philadelphia in connection with his art.

Ms Wanderman, Mr. Gonzalez and A Cuban Legend are good company."

-Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times


"One of the best cinematic portraits of an an artist
in years, this film focuseson the Afro-Cuban painter
Salvador Gonzalez, famous for his hugh murals and vast
series of wall paintings and sculptures decorating
Havana's Callejon de Harnel neighborhood. The latter
work is staggering: a riot of color and imagery extending
all around the block. Gonzalez - who blends art, religion
and the rumba - is an amazing figure."

-Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


"Dazzling colors, crackling Havana street life,
the sexual beat of the Rumba and the centuries-old
rituals of Yoruba culture are the backdrop for this
lively portrait of Salvador Gonzalez Escalona, a
prince in his Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Havana.
There, he has created a huge mural out of Callejon
de Hamel, a once dangerous alley. In his studio,
poised over a canvas, he says, "What I paint flows
from energy I receive from astral forces. "Salvador
is such a forceful and charismatic presence,
it is hard not to believe him."

-Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle


"A jewel among a treasure trove of culturally
significant film, " A Cuban Legend", is a must
see for lovers of AfroCuban music religion and art."

-Michael Ibrahim - Street Wise


"A refreshingly unconventional 2001 documentary
on Cuban muralist Salvador Gonzalez, a practioner
of the Yoruba religion, who says his art isenergized
by astral forxes.. the tone is spontaneous and celebratory"

-Chicago Reader Movie Section