In the 1990s Diony Arce, lead singer of the Cuban heavy metal group Zeus, was jailed for six years. That act of repression raises the stakes in Nicholas Brennan’s scrappy film “Los Últimos Frikis” and makes it more than your average documentary about middle-aged rockers attempting a comeback.
Treated differently, the movie could be straight-faced satire. Zeus formed in the 1980s when rockers like Arce were persecuted as dissenters supporting a capitalist musical form, but today the Cuban Ministry of Culture has an Agency of Rock that keeps bands on the payroll and tours them around the island. Brennan joins Arce and his bandmates as they thrash to small moshing crowds across the nation (assuming the stage setup isn’t in shambles when they arrive) and rage against the hegemony of corporate reggaeton.
Home sequences with the five band members’ families indulge my soft spot for seeing loved ones doting on their pet rockers. Most of these “frikis” (freaks) seem well-adjusted, taking on other work to pay the bills. But the film’s enduring hook is the spectacle of a self-proclaimed revolutionary government that can’t abide the rebellion of rock without bureaucratic oversight.
Produced over several years, Brennan’s movie required some fancy footwork to complete as the relationship between the United States and Cuba continued to evolve. There’s definitely pathos to a heavy metal band that once spoke truth to power and now lacks a major influx of younger fans. But there’s also a punchline here: At the end we learn that Arce has been appointed director of the Agency of Rock.
Los Últimos Frikis
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes. Watch on Topic.