A moving documentary with generous amounts of music, “Los Hermanos/The Brothers” follows two musician siblings from Havana whose personal closeness is at odds with the geopolitics that keep them apart. Ilmar Gavilán, a violinist, left at 14 to study in Moscow and later immigrated to the United States. Aldo López-Gavilán, his younger brother, a pianist and composer, mostly stayed in Cuba, apart from conservatory training in London. Until December 2014, when President Obama announced a restoration of American relations with Cuba, the brothers — the sons of professional musicians — had few opportunities to perform together, or even to see each other.
Directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, the documentary follows the brothers separately and as a pair from 2016 to 2018, as they visit their respective homes and travel the United States on a musical tour. The film shows how their differing backgrounds have shaped their musical styles and their attitudes. Aldo talks about the lack of good pianos in Cuba. Ilmar explains how the embargo prevented Aldo from having their mother’s piano there repaired by Steinway in the United States. When Ilmar visits Cuba, Aldo praises the government stores while Ilmar teases him about how infrequently the rations allow him to obtain a chicken. In Detroit, Ilmar laments the visible inequality.
The film might have done more to explain the logistics of the brothers’ border hassles, and there are a few occasions when the year of filming could be clarified. But the electrifying musical collaborations — in addition to the poignant sibling performances, Joshua Bell performs Aldo’s music with Aldo at Lincoln Center — more than make up for those quibbles.
Los Hermanos/The Brothers
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. In theaters and on virtual cinemas. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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