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The Independent Critic

Omar Sosa, Paolo Fresu, Manolo Badrena, Trilok Gurtu, Seckou Keita, Jeff Levenson
Soren Sorensen
99 Mins.

 Movie Review: Omar Sosa's 88 Well-Tuned Drums 
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There's an immense amount of joy to be found within Soren Sorensen's vibrant and energized feature doc Omar Sosa's 88 Well-Tuned Drums, a biopic documentary exploring the life of Cuban pianist and composer Omar Sosa. Having had its world premiere at Dallas's USA Film Festival in 2022, Omar Sosa's Well-Tuned Drums heads toward a 2023 release after around 30 fests and multiple awards including at the Ag & Art Film Festival (Best Art Documentary), Flickers' Rhode Island International Film Festival (Best Musical Documentary), Massachusetts Independent Film Festival (Best Documentary), and ReelHeART International Film Festival (Best Music Related FIlm) among others. 

The Grammy nominated Sosa is widely recognized as one of the most versatile jazz artists on the music scene today and Sorensen vibrantly captures the heart and soul of Sosa's music, a percussive approach to the piano that defies description and easy labeling. Omar Sosa's 88 Well-Tuned Drums is as non-linear as Sosa's music, a narrative tapestry of musical storytelling and emotional resonance. Sorensen immerses us in Sosa's life journey from his native Camagüey through his relocation to Ecuador where he wrote jingles for a living and then onto his relocation to the U.S. and the Bay area Latin Jazz scene. 

I've long tried to explain to moviegoers why I'm so passionate about covering the indie film scene. Omar Sosa's 88 Well-Tuned Drums is a sublime example, a film that you'll likely never see at the multiplex but a prime example of intelligent and passionate documentary filmmaking telling a story far too many of us don't know. 

It seems like wherever we follow Sorensen's camera, we're mesmerized and fully immersed in Sosa's brilliant musical artistry. A duet with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu left me in awe and live performances alongside Senegalese kora player Sekou Keita are the stuff that musical dreams are made of. We hunker down inside some of the greatest jazz clubs, New York's Blue Note for example, and we're left in awe over and over and over again. 

There are those films that have me rushing to my computer to learn more about the artist involved. Omar Sosa's 88 Well-Tuned Drums is such a film as I found myself going down the Omar Sosa rabbit hole to listen to his music and learn more and more about him. 

Weaving together a fierce amount of music alongside engaging interviews and informative archival footage, Sorensen magnificently documents the vast musical range of an iconic musical artist whose 30+ albums indicate an insatiable quest for truth in musical storytelling and a charismatic performer whose mere presence absolutely captivates. 

There isn't a moment of Omar Sosa's Well-Tuned Drums that doesn't excite. This is a feature documentary that practically begs to be seen with a quality sound system and enough room for the body to move. Moving, indeed, in a myriad of ways, Soren Sorensen's Omar Sosa's Well-Tuned Drums is everything you want a musical documentary to be with unforgettable storytelling and a contagious rhythm that never lets you go.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic