“Journey to a Dream”: A Film Odyssey into Music, Struggle, and Triumph

A journey through the life and art of virtuoso musician Arturo Sandoval.

Directed by Francisco J. Ricardo and filmed over a span of eight years.

Produced by Conceptualist Films.

Arturo Sandoval has been a musician for most of his life, from childhood in Cuba to defecting as a young man to the US. Why defect to play music? He had found success as a trumpeter, but Castro’s regime dictated that jazz music, American music, was treasonous and punishable imprisonment. He continued to play with his band, Irakere, hiding jazz rhythms in the complex, popular music enjoyed by the Cuban people. However, he was dissatisfied with the restrictions placed on him (including a three-month jail sentence for listening to jazz). In 1977, he met his idol, Dizzy Gillespie, and the two formed a long-lasting friendship. The two became part of an orchestra, travelling and performing the world over.

Eventually, Arturo began to plan a risky escape from his home. He was being watched by the Cuban government as he traveled to Europe, but he convinced the Cubans that his wife and son should be allowed to travel to London, while he went on tour through Greece and Italy with his American friend and mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, the legendary bebop trumpeter. This musical touring arrangement was one of the rarest and most unusual partnerships allowed by both the Communist and American governments. One night, while in Greece, and with the help of Dizzy, Arturo defected. He knew that Cuban intelligence agents were hunting for his wife and son throughout London. For his escape to work, simultaneous arrangements had been made for his wife and son to be secretly flown by the U.S. government to Miami from a safehouse in London. Arturo finally meet up with his wife and son only after arriving in the U.S. in this unique double-defection. Since then, he has travelled and performed all over the world. He scored the music to the film For Love or Country based on his life and commissioned by HBO. He has been acclaimed with ten Grammy Awards and one Emmy award, and in 2013 was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The legendary composer and musician David Amram speaks about Arturo Sandoval in a moment filmed at Zebulon Café in Los Angeles. David is the noblest musician I have met.