Artist Spotlight:
‘The Mamboniks’ filmmaker Lex Gillespie

Leading up to the 2019 JxJ, we asked our filmmakers and artists a few questions about their featured programs.
In this edition, Director Lex Gillespie talks The Mamboniks

What inspired you to tell the story depicted in your film?

Out of full disclosure, I’m not Jewish. But my wife is, and one day she told me a story about her grandmother, an aspiring mambo dancer. I simply thought there was a story there: why did a nice Jewish grandmother from New Haven, Connecticut want to learn the cha-cha-cha?


Director Lex Gillespie

What was a particular obstacle you faced while making this film? 

I’m a first-time filmmaker, there were obstacles everywhere! In particular, I had to learn how to edit a film. I had so many stories and characters, it was difficult figuring out how to put all of them together.


What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?

On the surface my film is about the mambo, the dance craze that came from Cuba in the 1950s. But at its heart it’s about celebrating cultural diversity and building bridges between different cultures. I think we need more of this today.


Why do you think Washington, DC is a valuable location to screen your film?

We need some joy and levity given our tumultuous political times. Plus it’s partly a political film about US-Cuban relations in the 20th Century.


Still from ‘The Mamboniks’

What films or filmmakers have been the most influential to you?

As a kid, I loved “Endless Summer,” about a guy and his surfboard, and all I ever wanted to do was travel the world in search of the perfect wave.


Why are Jewish-interest films important today?

Jewish-interest films are important today not only to connect Jewish people with their heritage, but to reach out to engage diverse, multi-cultural audiences. I don’t think you have to be Jewish to like my film!

Watch The Mamboniks during the 2019 JxJ.

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