If link breaks, please visit http://www.woodstockfilmfestival.com/press/releases/2015_05_kickoff2.htm

CONTACT: Alana Davis, Press Director press@woodstockfilmfestival.com or 845-679-4265

Woodstock Film Festival Announces Cuban Superstar to Kick Off 2015 Fest

Film and Live Performance: THE POET OF HAVANA, featuring Cuba's beloved singer-songwriter Carlos Varela joined by Jackson Browne

Carlos Varela

Carlos Varela

(Woodstock, NY) May 2015- The Woodstock Film Festival will kick off the 16th annual festival with the New York Premiere of The Poet of Havana, Ron Chapman’s energetic documentary about renowned Cuban songster Carlos Varela. Join director Ron Chapman, Carlos Varela and Jackson Browne for a post screening Q&A. The evening will continue with a performance featuring Varela, band members and American music icon Jackson Browne. The event takes place on September 30 at UPAC, 601 Broadway, Kingston, NY. Tickets are available at THE POET OF HAVANA - woodstockfilmfestival.com/events/2015kickoff.php

The Woodstock Film Festival is extremely excited to present this electrifying and timely program, as US/Cuban relations begin to return to normal. Both rocker and troubadour, Varela’s controversial songs about frustration and yearning for freedom have made him an inspiration to his country’s youth, an independent voice in a country where few people have managed to speak their mind. 

The Poet of Havana explores the cultural, political and social significance Varela has had in his 30 years as a singer-songwriter. A veteran of censorship battles with the Cuban government, his emotionally charged songs—raw, metaphoric chronicles of contemporary Cuban life— have drawn comparisons to Bob Dylan’s work. Jackson Browne’s translation of Varela’s Muros y Puertas (Walls and Doors), talks about how polarized we are as a society, evident in the song’s refrain, “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it.” Shot in Havana with unique access, the audience enjoys stunning concert and insider backstage moments, along with exclusive interviews with such international stars as Ivan Lins, Luis Enrique, Juan and Samuel Formel, Diana Fuentes, X Alfonso, Alexander Abreu, in addition to Jackson Browne and actor Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Traffic, Guardians of the Galaxy).

"I first encountered Carlos Varela in Cuba, while shooting concerts and interviews with Cuban musicians for my next film," says director Ron Chapman. "What I found in this talented and insightful artist, was a musician, lyricist and voice so singular and powerful I was compelled to tell his story in a film all of its own."

The screening will be preceded by a Cocktail Reception at 6pm for Golden Circle ticket holders. All other ticket buyers will be admitted after the cocktail reception.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne

Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela started playing music literally “in the dark.” Growing up in Havana, whenever a power failure killed the lights, Varela and friends would play rock music blowing across the sea via a homemade radio antenna. In 1977, at a concert of Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés -- standard-bearers for Nueva Trova, homegrown folk music that reflected the unrest of many Cubans -- Varela realized music could be more than just a fun way to pass the time.

Although he insists poetics took precedence over politics, Varela has struggled with the restrictions of censorship. But while other artists might have sought refuge elsewhere, Cuba is his inspiration and has always been home. He has recorded eight albums and performs worldwide.

Jackson Browne is one of Varela's biggest champions. "He's from a generation that's really impatient, that wants something to happen, something to change. He's the voice of Cuban youth.”

Jackson Browne has written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. He was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2007.

His debut album came out on David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1972. Since then, he has released fourteen studio albums and four collections of live performances. His most recent album is Standing in the Breach.

Beyond his music, Browne is known for his advocacy on behalf of the environment, human rights, and arts education. He's a co-founder of the groups Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and Nukefree.org.


Ron Chapman

Ron Chapman

Ron Chapman, director of The Poet of Havana, started out as a musician, then went on to manage musical artists, produce albums and ultimately establish a film production company, directing rock videos and TV commercials for some of the world’s leading brands. At his legendary Toronto music club “The Edge,” Chapman provided a scene for some of the most exciting international artists of the day.

Chapman's 2014 documentary Who the F**K is Arthur Fogel, features Lady Gaga, U2, The Police, Madonna, Rush, and key music industry insiders. His forthcoming filmThe Forbidden Shore, with performances and interviews of over 60 top Cuban artists, will be the most in-depth cultural/music documentary to come out of Cuba.

In a return to his roots, Chapman has recently completed an album of his own songs.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements regarding the OPENING NIGHT FILM, and other events, by following the festival on social media and visiting www.woodstockfilmfestival.com.

About the Woodstock Film Festival:

Hailed by Indiewire as "A true American Maverick Among Fests" and named among the top 50 film festivals world wide, the Woodstock Film Festival premieres exceptional films, hosts the most talented emerging and established professionals in the movie industry; presents A-list concerts, panels and parties, and creates stimulating, innovative programming year-round.

The Woodstock Film Festival is a non-profit, 501c3 with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music and art-related activities that promote artists, culture, inspired learning and diversity.

The Woodstock Film Festival celebrates its 16th Anniversary, September 30-October 4, 2015, with an extraordinary line-up of fiercely independent films, panels, concerts and special events in WoodstockRhinebeckKingstonRosendale and Saugerties.