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Interview with Maestro director Josell Ramos

MAESTRO is a historical documentary film based on the underground dance music scene in New York City during the late 1960's through the 1980's. It was a precursor to the disco phenomenon which resulted into movie blockbusters such as "Saturday Night Fever" in 1977, and "54" in 1998.

The documentary begins with the history of same sex dancing after the Stonewall riots in 1969. Same sex dancing gave a whole new meaning to freedom of expression through the art of dancing. A freedom that was unaffected by race, ethnicity or social class on the dance floor. It attracted people from all walks of life to underground venues like the "Sanctuary", the "Loft" (of which I became a devout patron during 1975-1980), the "Gallery" and the "Paradise Garage". The film included the invention of high-powered sound systems by club sound design engineer Richard Long (1933-1986); the creation of the 12-inch vinyl record by SalSoul for remixing music narrated by Tom Moulton. Interviews with legendary maestro's Francis Grasso (1948-2001) "Sanctuary", David Mancuso "Loft", Nicky Siano "Gallery", Danny Krivit "Body&SOUL" and many others. The documentary concludes with an exclusive interview with maestro Francois "K" Kevorkian discussing the AIDS epidemic that plagued patrons of the underground dance music culture during 1980's. MAESTRO is indeed a souvenir to treasure; a tribute to a historical era that will be remembered forever!

MAESTRO directed/produced/written by Josell Ramos | USA | 2004 | English | 90 mins., premiered at the Quad Cinema, New York, March 12-25, 2004. Two disc DVD is available online at Amazon and retail stores. For more information, please visit:
By Maria Esteves - March 18, 2004

MAESTRO documentary film written/produced/directed by Josell Ramos premiered at the Quad Cinema, New York, March 12-25, 2004. The historical film depicts the real story behind the dance music culture that gave birth to the disco phenomenon in New York City during the late 1960's through 1980's. Director Ramos, 32, who lives and work in New York was born in Cuba. At 14, he got his first 35mm still camera and learned the fundamentals of photography. He's an MBA graduate from Fordham University. Director Ramos was interviewed on Thursday, March 18, 2004.

Q: What inspired the making of the documentary film "Maestro"?

JR: I was writing a movie script about the dance music culture that gave birth to the disco era from the late 60's through the 80's. Then I realized there weren't even any documentaries on this scene, about clubs like "the Garage", "the Loft", "the Gallery" and also people like Francis Grosso, who was among the first innovators. I'm a fan of that scene, and think it's an important side of the music.

Q: Did you have any legal or ethical issues in making the documentary film?

JR: The footage in the film is very rare and the people that gave me the footage held on to it for 10 years. They said "I didn't want to give it to just anyone but I didn't want to die with the footage. It is the time for people to know what really happened because there's been so many stories about Studio 54 and the real story was never told." This documentary is significant. You see a place in time where these people lived and died. The audience experienced total jubilation when they saw the film.

Q: What was the visual style of the documentary film?

JR: There was just one tape and a lot of it was improvised. At times the places that we were shooting was dark or light but the camera was rolling. That's what I mean by cinema verite - it was unfolding as we were shooting. We wanted the film to be as raw as possible. The film has an authentic look and that's what we were striving for. We did not want to follow a chronology from 1969 to 1986 that would be predictable for people who know the history. For example, in 1969 talking about Francis Grosso, in 1971, the "Loft"; you already know the "Gallery" is coming next then the "Garage" after that. So we wanted to make it as unpredictable as possible. It was non-linear. We started with the "Garage", then the "Gallery", then Francis Grosso, then the "Loft" then back to the "Garage".

Q: Is "Maestro" schedule to screen throughout the United States and Overseas?

JR: In February 2003, we did an advance screening in London. In May 2003, it opened in Switzerland and Manchester. In the summer of 2003, we did "Rio" Film Festival in Chicago and an underground Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. Then we decided to go straight to cinema. I knew my market very well. We are the top film at the Quad Cinema. Film festival to me was not a priority. I have friends that won prizes at Sundance and Tribeca film festivals and never found distribution for there work and they are working on their next film. I was really focused on getting the film into cinemas.

In 2004, "Maestro" opens in Chicago, March 28; in Los Angeles, April 2; in Glasgow, May 28; and in Germany in June.

Q: How long did it take to make the film?

JR: Four years of production work - pre-production, post-production, co-production.

Q: Is a DVD in the works?

JR: Yes, definitely to be released fourth quarter of 2004, and it's going to be a collector's item. The DVD will be distributed at Virgin Records, HMV stores and our website. It will be available as a rental at Blockbuster a month after it goes on sale.

Q: Did you sign with an independent film distributor?

JR: I did service deals with certain cinemas and certain people to get into cinemas around the world and I always keep my DVD rights.

Q: Any new projects currently in the works?

JR: Currently working on a narrative fiction about four artist ‘filmmakers'.

Thank you, Josell.

For more information, please visit:


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