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HBO presents

For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000)

"That horn I heard tonight doesn't belong to you. It belongs to the whole world."- Dizzy Gillespie (Charles S. Dutton)

Stars: Andy Garcia, Mia Maestro, Gloria Estefan
Other Stars: David Paymer, Charles S. Dutton
Director: Joseph Sargent

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: PG-13Run Time: 01h:59m:55s
Release Date: 2001-04-17
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B+A- C


DVD Review

Arturo Sandoval (Andy Garcia) plays a beautiful trumpet melody in front of an adoring crowd in Cuba, but his face reveals the look of a man who would rather be anywhere else but at this concert. Between shows, he listens in awe to jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and dreams of a world where he could play this type of music without fearing for his safety. Although on the surface his life appears wonderful, Sandoval is suffering from the repression of an artistic thirst that must be quenched. This conflict between his life and what he truly wants is producing a gaping hole in his life, and he must act to save himself from utter depression.

In the compelling biopic For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, Andy Garcia honestly displays the frustration growing in this amazingly talented trumpet player. While on stage playing the music he loves, Sandoval exists in musical heaven, and the rhythm overtakes his senses in a joyous reverie. Unfortunately, the freedom to express "ideas" is limited in Fidel Castro's Cuba, and this includes the free expression of different types of music. In this paranoid society, citizens must be wary of every comment or action. The eyes of the government are everywhere, and the fear of radical thoughts has created a country where open-minded thinking is persecuted by the authorities. With no options left, Sandoval enters the American embassy with a desperate plan to defect from Cuba. In an attempt to convince the official (David Paymer) of his problems, he relates his tumultuous life in intriguing fashion.

The early sections of the film focus on Sandoval's courting of Marianela, a beautiful young woman who catches his eye while waiting for a bus. These scenes reveal a lively, exciting man who is willing to do anything for this lovely girl. Unfortunately, she works for the government and strongly believes in the cause of Fidel Castro's revolution. Even after they're married, the two struggle over their differing opinions on the nature of the country and its leaders. This conflict deftly presents the reason for Castro's popularity and respect from the Cuban people. Marianela is an intelligent woman, but she's blinded by her love for the country and her ideal of equality among all people in Cuba. Mia Maestro (Tango) does a nice job in revealing the convictions of this real person who is far more than just a pretty face.

Arturo Sandoval shaped much of his music from listening to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Dutton (Cookie's Fortune, A Time to Kill) wonderfully plays this jazz great in his later years of life. The scenes where Gillespie visits Cuba are among the best in the film. His enjoyment of the music on the streets shows a man who simply loves this art form in all its types. Dutton moves away from his usual persona and molds himself into this likable character with aplomb and wit. Sandoval and Gillespie are kindred spirits, and it's easy to see why the two would bond and become close friends.

Andy Garcia's considerable talents are often tucked away in small, little-seen films or lost within big-budget disasters like Desparate Measures. His career has included memorable performances in films ranging from The Godfather: Part III to When a Man Loves a Woman and the The Untouchables. However, he's seldom listed among the top actors in the business. In this film, he gives a compelling performance that makes us believe he really is Arturo Sandoval. This is not an easy accomplishment, but Garcia succeeds through his love of the music and his ability to convey a wide range of emotions.

For Love or Country works because it delves personally into real-life conflicts and makes them understandable and intriguing. Director Joseph Sergeant has helmed numerous television projects, including the HBO film, Miss Evers' Boys, and he utilizes his considerable skills without making it heavy-handed. The look of the story is fairly straightforward, which allows the impressive music and acting performances to envelop the audience. The concert performances highlight the film and make you want to get up and dance to the beat. Instead of slowing down the flow of the story, they complement the action by showcasing the immense skills of this remarkable individual.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this disc is surprisingly strong for a feature that originally aired on HBO. The black levels are solid, and the colors are bright and clear in the various settings of the story. From the dark colors of the nightclub stage to the muted colors of the Cuban landscape, this transfer presents them all impressively. No major defects or glitches exist in this picture, and it creates a nice atmosphere for viewing this story.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Wonderful music dominates the sounds of this film, and the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer on this disc brings it to life in grand fashion. While the sounds of Arturo's blaring trumpet echo through the soundtrack, it helps to illustrate his talents and make the story more touching. This audio transfer also works well within the longer dialogue scenes, as they remain clear and easily understandable. The Dolby Surround track supports the music decently, but lacks the depth to bring all the sounds of the band together.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: While the bonus features on this disc aren't extensive, they are well done and do supplement the film nicely. The Making of For Love or Country takes a brief, 12-minute look at the production of the movie, with the focus on the real-life Arturo Sandoval. It's interesting to see Andy Garcia and Sandoval collaborating on the music for individual scenes, and it adds relevance to the story. The featurette does include narration that borders on over-promotional, but it remains interesting through comments by Sandoval and other musicians like Chick Corea.

The cast and crew section includes a decent amount of biographical information, along with the usual filmographies. Entries are available for Garcia, Mia Maestro, Gloria Estefan, Charles S. Dutton, and Arturo Sandoval. The notes about Sandoval are a nice touch, and present the facts that inspired this emotional story.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

Arturo Sandoval has garnered a significant amount of success since his arrival in the United States in 1990, and he's become one of the most popular trumpet players in the world. For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story presents a touching look at the struggles he faced to make the music he loves and reach the pinnacle of his profession. With a poignant and energetic performance by Andy Garcia, Sandoval's story is told in excellent fashion. Whether you're a fan of his music or just looking for a good story, this disc is definitely worth a viewing.

Dan Heaton 2001-06-01