Movie Review: Linda & The Mockingbirds

If you enjoyed last year’s Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, the you’ll be excited for the encore. Linda and the Mockingbirds catches up with the singer after the documentary of her life has been released. But this film isn’t just about her. It’s about her relationship with Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy. This is a school for kids to learn how to play traditional Mexican music that she’s been involved with since the release of her Canciones de Mi Padre album and tour. The film follows her trip with the students for their performance in Banámichi, Mexico.

Back in 1987, Linda Ronstadt changed up he rock and roll career by releasing Canciones de Mi Padre, an album sung in Spanish. This was her way of connecting with her Mexican roots. Turns out her father was from Mexico. While some questioned the career move, the album was one of her biggest sellers. During the tour she ran into Eugene Rodriguez, the head of Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy. She had marveled at a performance by the students. He told her he was in the process of raising money to take his students on a tour of Mexico so they can get a true sense of place when they sang, played and danced. Linda immediately told him that she’d fund the trip and added a date to her tour to benefit the school. Now all these years later, she is still a part of the school as a mentor and supporter. The movie is about the time Ronstadt hopped on the bus with the performers and brought along her pals Jackson Browne and filmmaker James Keach to capture the fun.

The film is not just the performances in village square at Banámichi. Keach gets to know the various performers that are part of the school. They speak about connecting with the music. There’s a lot of talk about crossing the borders. Jackson Browne speaks of how Eugene Rodriguez helped him change the focus of his song about the border into “The Dreamer.” There’s plenty of talk about how music affects us and we see how it effects all the people that are part of the school. Linda remembers as a kid growing up in Arizona that crossing into Mexico wasn’t such an ominous event with the imposing walls, razor wire and guards. People just wandered back and forth as if it was the dividing line between Arizona and New Mexico. But that’s all changed.

Linda has lost her singing voice because of a medical condition, but she has not lost her enthusiasm for music and experiencing others sing. She’s so happy on the tour bus when the kids break out songs. During the performance, she softly sings along.

Towards the end of the film, Ronstadt sits on the bus with a small child as they head North to the border for crossing back into the USA. She reflects on her fear of what happens if something goes wrong and the border patrol takes the kid away and loses him in the system. This is not an unfounded fear since this week is was announced that DHS can’t locate the parents to over 500 kids that ICE has in their detention facilities. This documentary is very timely.

There’s a lot going on in the hour long running time. This isn’t merely a film about a concert. Linda and the Mockingbirds is a documentary about people, music, the border and how they cross it.

Linda and the Mockingbirds is currently available on VOD for home viewing.

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