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  • In Cafe con leche, a documentary about legendary cuban filmmaker Nicolás Guillén Landrián, director Manuel Zayas brilliantly uses the very same narrative and structural techniques pioneered by Landrián, to provide a portrait of the late director. Highly censored during his lifetime (only 3 of his 18 documentaries ever screened), Landrián, or Nicolasito as he is affectionately known, belonged to a movement of cuban documentary filmmakers during the 60's-70's (which also included such greats as Santiago Alvarez), who were concerned with pushing technical as well as artistic limits of our understanding of what a documentary is, and combining it with powerful images and messages.

    These highly controversial films broke with the tradition of observational documentary film, as well as the then popular cinema verité of the French or direct cinema from the UK. Landrián and his colleagues were artists whose films were more personally expressive, much like the recent work of Bruce Weber. Landrián also implored such techniques as multi-layered sound design (up to 26 tracks, unheard of for documentaries), as well as staccato-like jump cuts and reverse and slow-motion action that puts the best efforts on MTV to shame. Keep in mind these films were being made in the 1960's.

    Manuel Zayas respects Landrián's aesthetic, adopting it as his own, as he recounts Landrián's life. Using much of Landrián's unseen film footage in Cafe con leche, Zayas pays homage to the legend, who was a revolutionary thinker and one of the many censored geniuses who history has forgotten.