Back to all films

The Mamboniks

A Film By Lex Gillespie

PRODUCER: Lex Gillespie

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.

All the footage, archival material and audio have been gathered and the film is edited and nearly completed! We are seeking $25,000 in finishing funds to put the final touches on the film, pay license fees, and take it to festivals.

Directed by Peabody Award winner Lex Gillespie, “The Mamboniks” tells a surprising, little-known story: how two cultures, Jewish and Latin, met on the dance floor at a time when America was racially segregated, and anti-Semitism was commonplace.

It features a lovable, somewhat zany group of characters now retired yet still dancing in Florida, who spin their tales with heart, humor and chutzpah.

Set to the infectious Afro-Cuban sounds of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, the film traces the mambo’s rise from its birth in Cuba to the peak of its popularity in the neon-splashed New York of the 1950s.

We travel to Havana with mambonik Marvin “Marvano” Jaye, who last visited the island in 1959, when dancers performed as the bombs of Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries echoed in the streets.

For many mamboniks, the affinity for Latin sounds was more than just pure fun: in the years after World War II, dancing helped Jews banish the horrors of the Holocaust and find joy once again.

Your contributions will support:

•licensing fees for music and archival footage/images

•color correction

•audio mixing

•festival fees

Associated Members

Lex Gillespie