UPDATED with additional info: Andy Garcia has come aboard to narrate Miss Angela, the working title of the feature documentary Angela Alvarez, the 91-year-old who had her lifetime’s work of songs discovered, and recorded her first album. Filmmakers Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton interviewed Alvarez and her children about her life and recorded when she performed her music in a debut concert (on her 91st birthday) at Hollywood’s Avalon Theater, an event Garcia both played in the band and hosted.
The film is now in postproduction.
“As a fanatical student of Cuban music it’s easy to recognize when you see someone that’s special, not only musically, but lyrically,” he said. “Angela Alvarez is a real discovery. I’m
honored to be a part of it — to be asked to lend my support.”
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, June 7 PM: A featured documentary is on its way about Angela Alvarez, a 90-year-old who just had her lifetime’s work of songs discovered and recorded her first album. The project is being produced by Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton (Dying Laughing, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap).
The film follows the story of Alvarez’s flight from Cuba in the 1960’s and subsequent life as wife, mother and working woman who hid her childhood ambition to be a singer and songwriter. It was only when her grandson, composer Carlos José Alvarez, asked about the traditional Cuban folk songs she had been singing to generations of the family, she tell him and unearthed a treasure trove of original songs.
The 90-year-old recorded her first album in collaboration with world renowned Cuban musicians from Buena Vista Social Club and her grandson. So at the age of 90, Alvarez is finally living her dream and has started a new career. How very cool is that?
Under the working title Angela Alvarez, the film charts Alvarez’s childhood in pre-revolutionary Cuba when she announced to her family she wanted to be a singer and songwriter which was expressly forbidden by her father and grandfather as an unsuitable career for a girl. So, she wrote songs in secret.
Their family became part of the Pedro Pan exodus where 14,500 unaccompanied children were spirited out of Cuba between 1960-62. It then took Alvarez four more long, frightening years to escape, and then reunite her family, finally settling down in the United States.
“This is a tale of second chances, where it is never too late to live your dreams,” said Toogood. “It’s the story of a strong woman, a refugee, who fought to make her family safe and a story about the power of music.”
The pinnacle of the film is a debut concert, with world class Cuban musicians accompanying Alvarez on her 91st birthday at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.
Musicians who took part are Grammy winners Luis Conte, Jose Alvarez, Alberto Salas, Ramon Stagnaro, and Justo Almario with Grammy nominated musicians Danilo Lozano, Dayren Santamaria, and Roberto Rosario. Other musicians include Carlos Jose Alvarez, Jorge Sawa-Perez, Roque Garcia, Mariano Dugatkin, and Jessicca Brizuela. And the music is absolutely beautiful.