Do you sometimes wish that the media would give an honest account of Salsa dancing? Are you still waiting for them to drop the saucy, hip wiggling talk and take the time to find out all the Salsa scene for themselves? I feel your pain. I too have rolled my eyes at Strictly Come Dancing’s faux pas, silly articles or even well-meaning but inaccurate films.
Thankfully, there is one film out there that might just change all that for you. The independent film ‘Sex, Love and Salsa’ is currently making its way around international film festivals and promises to be authentic, honest and juicy. Today, the film’s director Adrian Manzano talks to us about the film, Salsa relationships and being an independent film producer. Let’s go!
Hello! Can you tell me a little about yourself first please?
My name is Adrian Manzano and I am the director of the Salsa feature film ‘Sex, Love and Salsa.’ I am a second-generation Colombian-American from Queens NY, USA. My family are from Cali, Colombia and danced Salsa so I learned at a very young age and grew up listening to the music. I became interested in the arts very early on; I was acting in plays and making short films on 8mm tape at the age of 10. I’ve worked on various productions in my career from commercials and TV to theatre. Sex, Love & Salsa is my first feature film as writer, director and actor.
Tell me a little about your film ‘Sex, Love and Salsa’…
The film is a ‘mocumentary’ about a Salsa-dancing womanizer who records his dating life. He falls in love with a sassy Salsa dancer named Maria and attempts to woo her by rehearsing and performing with her at a dance competition
What motivated you to create it?
At the age of thirty, it was time to follow my dream of feature film-making. I had gone through a relationship break- up which prompted the writing of this love story. Despite not having money or resources I experimented with the style and was able to create a very personal film for myself. And luckily other people liked it too!
Where did the inspiration come from?
It came from my life. It was a personal story, my first film and also I was acting as a despicable version of myself. Because of this I was able to go fully into the story and the character exposing the depth of my psyche in a form of cinematic psycho analysis like you see in a Woody Allen film. Of course I also drew from other filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Scorcese, Fellini, Tarantino, Woody Allen, Carlos Saura and the Duplass brothers as well as writers like Junot Diaz and films like ‘Saturday Night Fever’.
Are the characters modelled on anyone in particular? Anyone from real life?
Yes, most definitely. All the characters in the film are based on women I dated or knew. They’re modeled on past relationships, some are amalgamations or composites of multiple people. The main character was an extreme antihero version of my self.
What do you think about Salsa relationships?
People are often warned against getting romantically involved with other dancers…Life is too short to be worried about whether relationships will work or not. I think you often know quickly what a persons intentions are and sometimes you don’t know what the future may hold. It’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all. Go for it, be vulnerable and be honest with yourself and with your partner. Enjoy the dance.
What is your opinion of the old Salsa ‘films’?
To be completely honest, I’m not a big fan of the old Salsa films. Saying that, I do like “Our Latin Thing” since it’s real and it’s about the musicians… Others usually try to fetishize Latin culture and dance which is really not my thing. But I do love dance films in general- Carlos Saura is my favorite director. I also love ‘Saturday Night Fever‘ , ‘In The Heights‘ and ‘Save The Last Dance.’
For us, you are the voice of the Salsa scene in NY. Has the Salsa scene changed in recent years? How has the economic crisis affected things there?
Ssalsa just keeps on growing. As people move to metropolitan cities Salsa, Tango, Kizomba and Bachata become easy ways for people to break from anonymity of the city and connect one-on-one with someone through music and dance. It’s beautiful. Of course, Salsa now has a lot competition with other dances though some appear to just be fads. Zouk seems to be on the way out. Bachata I think has reached its peak, but the pretty- boy pop stars will help it, I think. Kizomba is now the new fad. But Salsa has seniority. It’s not going anywhere. I’m even seeing some Latino teens now really embrace Salsa in New York, which is very promising. There’s new musicians like WSO, Mecanica Popular and La 33 who are experimenting with the music. It’s an exciting time.
Yes and no. A lot of people were very supportive. Some people where catty and clicky, and refused to support. And I get it- that’ s common in any subculture. I was not very well known. I had no connections, no NYU degree. But the actual people, dancers and Latinos have really embraced the film and have spread the film by word of mouth. That’s why despite a few bad reviews and no jury awards, we’ve won two audience awards and now are getting theatrical distribution.
At the end of the day, it’s the audience that counts. It’s about getting people to go see the film and talk about the film with friends. That’s powerful. You can’t buy that kind of support. No fancy degree or NY Times review or Jury prize can get that engagement. It’s just good personal storytelling that people can relate too. Everything in the media is so manufactured to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to reach a mass audience. Seeing something real and personal is rare and breath of fresh air to a lot of people all around the world.
What does the future hold for you? Any more films in the pipeline?
Yes! I’m in the process of starting a new film this summer. It’s not dance focused. It’s a Latina-coming-of-age absurd black comedy. Kind of experimental, dark, funny and tragic. We’ll be raising funds through Kickstarter/Indiegogo. (pages not actionable just yet!-Ed.) I also have an international film that I am trying to get started but it’ s a much bigger budget and won’t be ready for another two years. My goal is to make a feature film every year and cultivate an audience in New York and around the world of people of every race and colour who want to see themselves represented in smart, funny, character-driven films. I see there is need for these kinds of stories and this is what I want to tell.
Where can we see or buy the film?
The film premiered in New York in September 2013 and has been touring various festivals around the world for a year now, winning numerous awards. You can see it in the cinema in Canada, the USA and Taiwan in the autumn which will hopefully lead to presentations in the UK and France too.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with the Salseros of the UK!
De nada! I look forward to dancing with you all soon.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Adrian Manzano of the film ‘Sex, Love Salsa’. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the trailer for the film.