TIFF Review: ‘The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé: A Trip Across Latin America’

TIFF 2016

5 mins read

The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America
(UK, 105 min.)
Dir. Peter Dugdale
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)


This year’s Rolling Stones doc is about the same as the rest of the films about the band, except for its Latin American setting. The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America goes on the road with the Stones for their 2016 Latin America tour, which features a landmark concert in Havana, their final destination. The significance of this concert to the Stones who talk about how excited they are to have their first gig ever in Cuba. The embargo has lifted and Cuba is finally ready to rock and roll with the Stones.

One could easily review Olé Olé Olé! without even watching it as director Peter Dugdale follows Stones doc convention in a flavourful setting. The doc features Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Hawkins, and Ron Wood reflecting upon their prolific and far-reaching careers. They remember good times and talk to the camera about their influences. Dugdale observes the bandmates riffing and rehearsing behind the stage and finds the passionate rockers behind the celebrities. The Stones seem just as excited about this tour as their die- hard fans.

Olé Olé Olé marks Dugdale’s second feature doc with the band after The Rolling Stones: Sweet Summer Fun – Hyde Park Live and the film breathes with the relaxed relationship between the director and the subjects. Dugdale offers great coverage of the band’s energetic concerts and the film delivers many of their greatest hits. The Stones, as always, are fun and colourful characters, and any doc portrait of them offers lively entertainment.

A running conflict with a scheduled appearance of Barack Obama adds tension and humour to the film as the crew members of the Stones’ tour worry that the President’s historic visit to Cuba will steal the spotlight from the band. Scheduled to arrive just hours after Jagger, Richards, Wood, and Hawkins, Obama’s presence complicates matters. It also shows the significance of their appearance as Dugdale parallels the stature of the iconic rock band with that of a sitting world leader.

Olé Olé Olé! is fun and entertaining, but it’s honestly just more of the same. The Rolling Stones are so heavily documented that there is little left to uncover in their careers and well-catalogued personal lives. We’ve heard them discuss their influences and love for music from the American south before, and seeing Keith Richards light up a reefer before hitting the stage is almost a music doc cliché at this point. The only new stone to turn is the Havana angle.

Dugdale makes the most of the opportunity to inject something unique into the Rolling Stones lore as the band members discuss how the concert offers a symbolic liberation for Cuba and other Latin American nations in which rock and roll was banned. Fans recount experiences of facing jail time and punishment for doing something as innocent as listening to the radio. Olé Olé Olé! stresses the value of a countercultural voice in any art form as the then-rebellious Stones afforded hope and solidarity through the fire of their music and the anti-establishment energy of their spirit. Dugdale taps into currents of Cuban culture that speak to the longevity of the embargo on the Stones, and its meaning at the time. It’s like the value of the iconic old cars that populate the streets of Havana. The Cuban jalopies evoke the spirit of the Rolling Stones with their age-defying longevity.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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