This year’s GEMS event by Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival (Miami Film Fest GEMS 2016 features Certain Women, Toni Erdmann, other potential Oscar contenders) will kick off with a documentary. Before you think it an odd choice, note that it features The Rolling Stones on their recent tour of Latin American … which ended in Cuba. As opening night movies for an event put on by Miami’s premiere film festival go, this should set the tone for the weekend nicely.
The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! : A Trip Across Latin America is not going to blow away anyone looking for a film that offers something new of the musical documentary genre. The film is as straightforward as its title. Though little more than a travelogue of Latin America with some big time rock ‘n’ roll legends as our guides, its pleasures are in the musical performances entwined with the striking fandom of those in Latin America. The film, directed by Paul Dugdale, makes a point to note that in some of these countries — not just Cuba — rock ‘n’ roll was seen as a threat to the often authoritarian governments that ruled of its people with iron fists.
This adds an urgency in the fans’ obsession that goes beyond celebrity. For many who remember darker times in places like Chile, Argentina and Mexico, The Rolling Stones offered a vehicle for self-expression where self-expression was often suppressed. When a man in Argentina, which had lifted its ban on rock ‘n’ roll as recently as 1995, breaks down in tears after catching a glimpse of Mick Jagger in a motorcade surrounded by police, one can’t help but feel that the rock idol represents something beyond the superficial idea of celebrity. Argentina also has something called Rolinga culture, featuring fans who often have the Stones’ famous lips and tongue logo tattooed on their bodies. We also meet a couple who have named their son Jagger after “his majesty.”
All of the countries the Stones visit have shifted to democracies with varied degrees of success — except Cuba. Therefore, it is featured the most out of all. Between brief candid moments with each band member experiencing a bit of local flavor in some of the countries they visit, the process of securing a show date in Cuba is the constant thread of drama uniting these various tour stops. The drama is as good as it can be when you already know the outcome, and you can only get so much media clearance to cover how this authoritarian island nation works. But there’s enough insight that those aware of the culture, as many in Miami are, will get the jokes and frustration.
As straight up as a film by a director known for Eagle Rock Entertainment documentaries, the pleasures in this movie lies in the small details, like the sea of pogging audience members during The Stones’ performance in Argentina or the sort of perverse thrill Keith Richards gets in opening his hotel window in Argentina to hear chants of “Richards! Richards! Richards! Olé! Olé! Olé!”
Beyond the banter about groupies in the ’60s and casual insights into the matured chemistry among the band mates in their old age, which fans ought to get a kick out of, in the grander scheme of culture and rock ‘n’ roll, Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America is a testament to the power of music. There is something about the contrast of these colorfully dressed old geezers and the ecstasy of the crowds, whose faces — of all ages — sometimes look to be in some transcendental state of anguish and adoration. In places where people were often given little to believe in, The Rolling Stones filled that abyss.
The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America has its Florida premiere on the opening night of Miami-Dade College’s Miami Film Festival’s Gems, Thursday, Oct. 13. There will also be a Rolling Stones themed party after the screening, which you can attend for an extra fee, see price details here. Images courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment. The Miami Film Festival hosted a preview screening for the purpose of this review.