Who was Laon Gast?
On March 8, 2021, we received the deplorable news of Leon Gast‘s death, who was a very notable American film director, producer, cinematographer and editor who was the director of the film based on the Fania All Stars, ”Our Latin Thing’‘. The unfortunate demise occurred when the director was 85 years old and the news was reported by friend and colleague Barbara Kopple.
Given the important contributions made by Mr. Cast offered to Latin music during his lifetime, we did not want to waste this opportunity to pay homage to his work through this material. Next, we will talk a little about his life and everything achieved both porfessionally and personally.
A little bit of his beginnings
Leon Jacques Gast was born on March 30, 1936 in New Jersey, studied at Henry Snyder High School and graduated with a degree in Dramatic Arts at Columbia University. During tha time of his life, he worked alongside writer and broadcaster Lowell Thomas in the television series ”High Adventure”, which meant one of his first triumphs at a professional level, but it definitely would not be the only one.
Another reason why Gast began to be so well known was thanks to his talent for photography, which would begin to be recognized in a number of famous magazines and print media such as Vogue and Esquire. In that regard, the producer began to create covers for the famous Fania All-Stars, which led him to create ”Nuestra cosa latina”. This documentary has been one of the greatest film projects that the filmmaker has carried out and many consider it a very important contribution to the consolidation of salsa as the cultural movement that it would later become.
Our Latin Thing
”Our Latin Thing” is a documentary film that consisted in portraying how the Latin music scene in New York City was like in the 1970s. The material basically focuses on the concert made by the Fania All Stars at the Cheetah nightclub in August 1971. For many, this event marked the birth of the salsa genre as a movement.
The concert attracted two thousand people and resulted in the albums ”Live At The Cheetah Volume 1” and ”Live At The Cheetah Volume 2”, which were very well received by fans of that time. The event was the consecration of the Fania All Stars as one of the most famous musical groups in Latin music history.
In addition to that, Cast accompanied the famous orchestra and many other Latin music artists to Africa in order to record each and every one of their performances during the Zaire 74 Festival.
The film has been taken by many institutions as a reference to continue promoting salsa and music in general from its release to today.
Other hits and details about Leon Gast’s life
Another of the biggest successes of this famous filmmaker was ”When We Were Kings”, which was a film released in 1996 and focused on important events for the United States such as Waltergate, the resignation of President Nixon, activism against racism, sports, mythical boxing matches and much more.
Another important project conducted by him was ”Manny”, which was focused on world famous boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s life and his most important moments.