Meet Ilmar and Aldo López-Gavilán, virtuoso brothers born in Havana, but long separated by geopolitics. Ilmar makes his way as a violinist in NY. Aldo is famous as a jazz and classical pianist in Cuba. Both find opportunities and challenges in their chosen countries.

At 14, the Cuban government sent Ilmar to Russia, to study with a master violinist. He never returned, landing a spot in the Queen of Spain’s music conservatory. He found his way to the U.S., where he won first place in a music competition. The prize: first violin in the Harlem Quartet, a hard-working performance group that mentors kids of color in classical music.

Aldo, 6 years younger, stayed in Havana, inspired by a culture of world-class jazz pianists. Acclaimed for his original jazz compositions and classical chops, he is virtually unknown in the U.S. But this summer they embark on their first U.S. tour together, and a door opens.

Just a few months later Fidel Castro’s passing and Trump’s election put their gains at risk. The Brothers follows their journeys in a time of tumultuous change.




In Cuba art is central to national identity. The island of 11 million people has outsized influence in dance and music worldwide. At the cultural vanguard in any country, artists are some of Cuba's most salient ambassadors, with a history of crossing divides that seem intractable to political leaders. Since the 1990s, Cuban artists and musicians have been tasked with bringing currency into an ailing economy, and allowed opportunities to travel, sell, and perform their work. Their privilege places them in an unusual position, allowing for some independence from the socialist economy. Those who stayed, like Aldo, love their country—and criticize it. Those who left, like Ilmar, love their country—and criticize it. With more possibilities on the table, the Gavilán brother’s dynamic and visually compelling story gives a unique and personal perspective on the evolving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

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