As director Leon Ichaso’s biopic of salsa legend Héctor Lavoe continues its theatrical run, amid mixed reviews and reactions, one significant voice from New York City’s Latin community was recently heard above the fray. Posting in August on a Latin jazz forum at Yahoo, Willie Colón—whose collaboration with Lavoe began in 1967 with the Fania album El Malo, and proceeded off and on for the next 25 years until Lavoe’s death in 1993—expressed displeasure at how his friend’s story was told.
“The creators of El Cantante missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community,” Colón writes. “The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead, they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies. The impact of drugs in the entertainment industry is nothing new—look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Houston today.”
Elaborating for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, Colón said the film failed to portray Lavoe’s “sense of humor, his agile mind, his sex appeal, and his ability to communicate effortlessly with audiences.”
Colón, who was an advisor to the producers of El Cantante, also points out that reaction to the film in Lavoe’s native Puerto Rico was equally heated, although he insists that the film’s lead actors—Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez—were not being singled out. “After the premiere in Puerto Rico,” he continues, “there were several statements of protest by people who had supported and participated in the project until they saw it. Their complaints were not about sour grapes or J-Lo and Marc bashing, but [came] from a sense of betrayal and disappointment.” El Cantante is still in theaters through September.