“Celia the Queen” tells the story of Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa music and a national treasure to the people of Cuba. Inside THIRTEEN spoke with director Joe Cardona about his experiences filming the legendary singer, who passed away in 2003. “Celia the Queen” airs on THIRTEEN Thursday, September 17 at 8 pm and Friday, September 18 at 1:30 am.
Q. Why did you choose to do a film about Celia Cruz?
I know that I speak for my co-director, Mario de Varona when I tell you that Celia was the soundtrack of our lives. She was a performer that transcended generational, ethnic, genre, racial and cultural boundaries and that made her an appealing subject for us.
Q. Celia Cruz was a legendary performer around the world – how did you get access to her to tell her story?
Mario and I sent Celia a proposal for a documentary film in 1998 almost as a lark, never really thinking she would get back to us. Low and behold a few weeks later we received word from her management that she wanted to meet and it all came together rather quickly after that.
Q. So what was Celia like?
Celia was the persona you saw on stage, maybe a few decibels lower but essentially the same person. She was caring, generous, sincere and damn talented.
Q. Celia is beloved all over the world – was there a lot of pressure in how you approached the film?
Once we embarked on this journey, Mario and I knew we were taking on a serious task. We treated the project with the utmost respect and devotion. We poured every ounce of blood sweat and tears into it.
Q. Did you learn anything about Celia during the making of the film that you didn’t know before?
How amazingly generous and giving she was as a human being.
Q. Celia Cruz passed away in 2003; what do you think she would make of the recent political changes going on in Cuba?
I don’t feel comfortable answering this question for Celia. I can tell you that she did not agree with the regime that has governed Cuba for over 50 years and yearned for the day that there would be a change in power so that she could go back.
Watch a preview: