The Passion of Tango

For over a year I've been to eager air a sumptuous documentary about Argentina's legendary tango performers. Café de los Maestros is Grammy, Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Latin Grammy award winning producer Gustavo Santaolallo's celebration of the musicians and singers whose who were the kings and queens of tango in the 1940s and 1950s.

Café de los Maestros is airing exclusively on KCET. I urge you to watch this concert film, which is airing over the next two weeks: August 12 at 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.; Monday August 17 at 4 at 10:00 p.m.; and Saturday August 22 (actually early Sunday morning) at 1:30 a.m. Let me know what you think of the special.

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More often than not, producers submit films they hope to air on KCET on DVD. By the end of the month my office sometimes resembles a warehouse with stacks of DVDs everywhere. In recent months, more and more producers are sending links so I can review their projects online (which is also eco-friendly.)

Rare, however, is the invitation to someone's home to see a new film. That's why I accepted the invitation from a PBS executive to go to a private screening of Cafe de los Maestros. Admittedly I didn't know much about the film but I knew much about multi-hyphenate producer Gustavo Santaolalla and the host of the event, Universal Music group CEO and President Zach Horowitz. I'm the kind who knows within a few minutes whether a movie, a song or a book are going to hold my attention. In the case of Cafe de los Maestros, I was enthralled from the opening sequence of the film. I thought I knew tango music because my parents would often practice their steps before heading out to a community ball. Little did I know how different Argentinean tango music and dance is from the homogenized ballroom stuff we've grown accustomed to because of TV specials.

Before becoming a producer, Argentinean born Santaolalla was a rock star in South America. He was in demand to write soundtracks and the one he created for Brokeback Mountain earned him the Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Santaolalla's love of tango music is evident in Cafe de los Maestros. He deftly assembles superstars of a different era, the heyday of Argentina's tango music of the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the performers had not seen each other in years; others had been fierce competitors in those times. We hear their stories as they reminisce and also reveal what makes tango music unique. We see the grand stars, none of them under age 70, in recording studios and rehearsals. The magic touch of Santaolalla is undeniable; he brings the musicians together again for one final performance which takes place at Teatro Colon in Bueno Aires.

And that concert performance is what you'll see over the next few weeks on KCET.

(Here's a trailer from the full-length 90-minute documentary you'll see on KCET in October.)

About the Author

Bohdan is Senior Vice President, Broadcast, Syndication, and Program Development for KCETLink.
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More good tango shows like this one, please!