Havana Jam '79 Film Fundraiser

The year was 1979, and the relationship between America and Cuba was contentious at best, as U.S. Representative Ted Weiss made a concerted effort to introduce a bill that would bring an end to the U.S. trade blockade against Cuba and hopefully resume normal diplomacy between the adversarial nations. Even though it was a noble effort on his part, it did nothing to ensure these economic sanctions would ever be lifted against our Caribbean neighbor to the south. That same year, Fidel Castro delivered one of his most historic speeches in an oration to the United Nations, where he heavily criticized the increased propagation of nuclear missiles.

The music industry acted as a kind of goodwill ambassador to bridge the cultural chasm that existed between both countries during that volatile chapter in world history. In 1979, a core group of American musicians, along with CBS Records President Bruce Lundvall and several of his colleagues at the label, traveled from New York to Havana, Cuba, to represent the United States in a grand-sweeping cultural exchange. The music festival, spanning the course of three days in March of that year, would unite some of the industry’s most renowned artists from the U.S. and Cuba in concert. Among the roster of stars were Billy Joel, Stephen Stills, Bonnie Bramlett, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Weather Report, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, and the Fania All Stars and more from the American side. Cuba was represented by Irakere, Orquesta Aragon, and others. This collective of talent fleshed out the billing in one of the most important musical overtures to ever grace the annals of Jazz and Rock n Roll.

The event was known as “Havana Jam.”

Vanguard filmmaker Ernesto Juan Castellanos has taken on the behemoth task to recapture the spark-and-magic of an era in Jazz and Rock n Roll history that bore witness to two nations -the U.S. and Cuba- separated by archaic thinking, fear and political strife, with his groundbreaking documentary, “Havana Jam ’79.” His noble efforts to see the film make its world premiere on the 40th-anniversary of “Havana Jam,” which commences March 2, 2019, is the impetus behind his determination and drive to finalize this project for the world to see.

As with any ambitious, costly project, such as the one Mr. Castellanos is attempting to deliver with “Havana Jam ’79,” the desire to finish and see it through also prescribes the need to secure the necessary funds to support the fruits of his labor so that it becomes a reality. The meticulous task of interviewing Billy Joel, Rita Coolidge, Bonnie Bramlett, and the rest of the musicians and execs involved in such historical event demands traveling not only to several cities in the US but also abroad. Not only is he tenaciously working on the completion of the documentary in time to secure its theatrical release in March 2019, but he is also doing so with the intent of sharing in the celebration with an entirely new audience eager to revisit that monumental chapter in music history.

“Havana Jam” accomplished so much more than just residing as a three-day celebration of Jazz and Rock. It ultimately united the people of two nations whose governments were at acrimonious odds with each another. The event revealed just how powerful, consequential a force music can be, which was witnessed by those attending the musical spectacle in ‘79. By preserving those moments brought to life onstage at “Havana Jam,” Ernesto Juan Castellanos certainly lays claim to the credence that peace and harmony can ultimately be achieved through music…if you only believe.

Ernesto Juan Castellanos is a Cuban-American Miami-based filmmaker who has spent the last ten years putting together the story of this unique three-day music festival, with photos, original footage, and interviews with the musicians themselves and the CBS execs who made this event possible back in 1979. ZuDhan Productions, which he owns and presides, has run out of funds and is looking for the cooperation of those who want to hear this incredible story straight from the original sources. Your contributions will be used to cover travel expenses to finish the film. Many of the artists involved are scattered all over the US or even abroad, which makes the production a bit costly, and Ernesto Juan doesn't mind covering the distances to get this story told. He is planning to withdraw the funds as he needs them, and will close the campaign as soon as the has finished his last interview. He will send a thank you note to every donor as he or she donates, no matter the amount, and will keep them posted of the progress of the campaign.

If you would like to consider making a donation to ensure the completion of the documentary film “Havana Jam ’79,” please do so by supporting his GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign.

Thank you.

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Ernesto Juan Castellanos 
Miami, FL
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