The Buena Vista Social Club album was put together by guitarist Ry Cooder in 1997 as a means of recapturing the "lost" music of pre-revolutionary Havana. The story was later made into this movie.

All the scenes in Havana were shot in three weeks.

The bulk of this film was shot with available light.

The sequence in the cigar factory was filmed without a permit.

Wim Wenders got the idea to make this documentary when he was working with Ry Cooder on the score for The End of Violence (1997) and Cooder started telling him about his involvement with these elderly Cuban musicians.

The success of the album and this subsequent documentary had a deep impact on the Cuban tourist industry, raising the country's profile.