On Sunday evening, the documentary Los Ultimos Frikis will premiere at 9:20 pm at the SVA theatre in New York City. The film follows the band Zeus who spent 30 years “fighting to be heard” in their home country of Cuba under the regime of Fidel Castro. I had the pleasure of speaking with director Nicholas Brennan and cinematographer Javier Labrador about the project. At the heart of our conversation was the passion these men have for metal and this band’s impact on the music industry within Cuba.
“From the 80s until today, Zeus navigated the ups and downs of Cuba’s own political history. You get to see this through the larger trajectory of their stories and in the film,” Nick Brennan said. “The whole band is incredible. They have survived a lot and been through a lot. The band was able to adapt in important ways. They lost and gained band members and persisted. The band loves what they do, and their passion shines through in their art.”
Nick and Javier spoke about their process and their personal connection to both metal. Nick grew up on metal in Portland Maine and Javier is a self described Friki who has followed Zeus for many years. The music is incredibly powerful, and while I have never been into metal, I was drawn to the band because of the power and passion behind their raw emotion. Javier noted in the conversation one of the things that makes Zeus stand out is their unique melding of metal with other music styles. Javier pointed to one song’s use of “Bolero.”
Another key element to the band’s musical passion lives in the struggles they faced to be heard.
“People always listen to the hardest music because it’s the way of reaffirming your own taste and your independence against everything that is pushed down on you. Everything the culture wants to push on you,” shared guitarist Ivan Vera.
Music has incredible power, and the cultural relevance of Zeus resonates in this film. Persistence matters. Zeus worked for thirty years to be seen, and heard within their community. They faced challenges from the government which led to jail and censorship. As you watch the musicians live their daily lives, battle hardship to survive, you see men who are fighting for their art. While they did not always want to be political, often times because they could not, these men are profiles in courage. They were willing to bring the best of their passion for music for the stage at Maxim, the rock venue where they would perform.
Some of the best art is political. These men lived their lives in a form of resistance in order to do what they loved. This story is a powerful representation of the influence that music has on people across the globe. Music is a universal language, and this film describes the persistence they needed in order to keep going.
I have a feeling this film will inspire a whole new generation of Frikis.
I asked Javier what he took away from the project: “Keep fighting, that is what the film is about. We should keep doing this. Keep doing films like this even if takes years to get this story out there.”
This is true on many levels. I am appreciative that Nick and Javier fought to tell this story because the power of films like this are needed. We also need more bands like Zeus to allow their passion to bring powerful influence to their people.