The Mamboniks

Dir. Lex Gillespie | 90 min
Documentary United States 2019

Back By Popular Demand! A hit at JxJ 2019

During the 1950s, free-spirited, mostly Jewish dancers from New York City fell head over heels for the mambo, a hot dance from Havana, Cuba. Their love for Latin rhythms earned them a nickname: the mamboniks.

DC-based filmmaker Lex Gillespie tracks their joyous story from the Jewish resorts of the Catskills, to Manhattan’s famed Palladium Ballroom, Florida’s Gold Coast Ballroom and of course Havana. Featuring the infectious sounds of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Mongo Santamaría, Gillespie explores how Jewish people, Latinos and African-Americans met on the dance floor at a time when America was racially segregated, and anti-Semitism was commonplace.

Director Lex Gillespie in conversation after select screenings: Sunday, February 16, 3:00 PM and Tuesday, February 18, 7:00 PM.


The Mamboniks was produced with support from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.



Friday, February 141:00 PM Matinee

Saturday, February 156:00 PM

8:00 PM

Sunday, February 161:00 PM Matinee

3:00 PM Q&A

5:35 PM

Tuesday, February 187:00 PM Q&A


Director Lex Gillespie in conversation after the 3:00 PM showing on Sunday, February 16.

Lex Gillespie is a Peabody and duPont-Columbia Award-winning public radio producer turned film director. For the past 25 years, he’s produced documentaries on music, history and culture. My credits include The Science Sisters, the story of four Latina students who competed in Chicago’s Science Fair; A Kind and Just Parent, about the creation of the first juvenile court in the US; and Whole Lotta Shakin a 10-hour series on the birth of rock ’n roll. The Mamboniks is his first film.

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Lex Gillespie
Lex Gillespie