Cuba's Last Freaks: "Castroism" Tried to Cut Heavy's Hair, Now it's the Regime's Music
The members of the band Zeus were in and out of prison because being a rocker in Cuba was the same as saying "capitalist devil." But that one tour changed everything...
If there is one thing that defines heavy metal, apart from its grinders, its screams, and Rob Halford's leather pants, it is its rebellion against any kind of system. But what happens when a historical band persecuted by the police for their subversion ends up financed by the same people who broke the vinyl records and threatened to cut their hair?
Filmmaker Nicholas Brennan spent ten years following Zeus, the "weirdoes" with the hair of a Cuba where the rock was capitalist music and therefore illegal. Until things changed and the government decided to promote a national tour that made Zeus understand something: "No man is an island, but they are. They were the last freaks left."
The documentary, entitled "Los Últimos Frikis", which caused a sensation in its world premiere, both in the last edition of the DOC NYC and in the Havana Film Festival where it sold out, follows the members of the group in that delirious Cuban tour and explores the changes between the young generations and the old rockers. Now Zeus arrives in Florida to participate in the Miami Film Festival, which starts March 6.
It was the 1980s in Fidel's Havana. Rock music and anything that smacked of American culture was more than forbidden; the long-haired heavies were nicknamed "frikis" and their fate was jail. Diony Arce, Zeus' leader, spent six years in a Cuban prison for his musical rebelliousness, becoming an island martyr to noise and guitar playing.
However, his thirst for crowds and the political and economic changes experienced in Cuba encouraged the band to accept a contract recently from the Cuban Rock Agency, which is part of the Department of Culture and to embark on a tour as gray as the already gray hair of these rockers. The worst is yet to come... Reggaeton and the new musical tendencies of a globalized world to which Cuba has begun to open up condemn them to oblivion, and Zeus' bus is meeting with some young Cubans who neither understand their music nor appreciate it. What is the price of rebellion?
"They hated us because we were something different," says one of the band members in the documentary. "But here we are. We are the last freaks in Havana."
Slayer's co-founder, Cuban-American Dave Lombardo, who made the film's soundtrack, told Rolling Stone that he had accepted the project as "it could have been mine" and that he did it "for my blood and my healing."
Director Brennan also said at the time that "this film is the culmination of cross-border collaboration between Cuban and American filmmakers, musicians and artists who have worked together over the past decade to share this unique history of Cuba with the world."
"It is an important example for our times of how collaboration and friendship can overcome our political differences," he concluded.
Everything can happen when rockers on the payroll of the Cuban state set foot in Miami, a bastion of anti-Castro opposition...