by Nancy Savoca, Richard Guay and Jerry Carlson
El Gato is a feature length documentary on the life and music of Argentine sax legend Leandro "Gato" Barbieri. His story is the journey of jazz's world influence in the last 60 years. From Gato's beginnings playing American hard bop in 1950s Buenos Aires (in clubs where locals got to meet and play with Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald), through his travels to Europe and the U.S. in the 60s where he played and lived free jazz and it's politics (with Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Abdullah Ibrahim, Carla Bley and others).
The 70s and beyond brought him to the earliest formulations of world music. Here Gato found his own musical identity by fusing jazz with the indigenous sounds of Latin America. He would compose the Grammy winning, Oscar nominated score for Last Tango in Paris and collaborate with other genre bending artists like Brazil's Jorge Ben Jor on Más Que Nada and Carlos Santana.
Throughout the film, we come to learn about this artist of mystery and paradox — a man of few words who could unleash a violent torrent of emotions whenever he blew his sax. Barbieri's life was one of migration, of leaving — places, people and musical traditions. His restlessness reflects his continued search for what would come to be known as "El Gato's sound."
The film is directed by Nancy Savoca and produced by Richard Guay and Jerry Carlson.
Nancy Savoca's first feature, True Love won the Grand Prize at Sundance. Entertainment Weekly named it "One of 50 Greatest Independent Films of All-Time." Her feature work includes Household Saints, Dogfight with River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, The 24 Hour Woman starring Rosie Perez (ALMA Nomination for Best Director) and Union Square with Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard and Patti LuPone. Her films have screened at festivals around the world and she has received Independent Spirit Award nominations for writing and directing. Savoca's television work includes HBO's If These Walls Could Talk starring Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek and Cher, Showtime's Dirt (Best Director, LA Latino Film Festival and Writer's Guild Nomination for Best Teleplay) and Lifetime Network's If There Be Thorns starring Heather Graham. As a documentary filmmaker Savoca directed and executive produced Reno: Rebel Without a Pause a film about the events of September 11th which was screened at festivals around the world and released theatrically in the U.S.
Richard Guay has co-written and produced for his partner, award-winning filmmaker Nancy Savoca, as well as for filmmakers Bill Condon (Kinsey), Jonathan Demme (Subway Stories) and Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog) among others. His first film True Love won the Grand Prize at Sundance. Three of his films have been nominated for Independent Spirit Awards for Best Picture (True Love, Ghost Dog & Kinsey) and one for Best Screenplay (Household Saints). Dirt, co-written with Savoca was also nominated for a Writers Guild of America award. Guay has worked as an executive for studios, completion bond and financial management companies as well as teaching extensively at film schools in Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Jerry Carlson is an active producer, director, and writer with multiple Emmy Awards. As a Senior Producer for City University Television (CUNY-TV), he created and produces the series City Cinematheque about film history, Canape about French-American cultural relations, and Nueva York (in Spanish) about the Latino cultures of New York City. As an independent producer, his recent work includes the Showtime Networks production Dirt directed by Nancy Savoca and Looking For Palladin directed by Andrzej Krakowski. Carlson is also a specialist in narrative theory, global independent film, and the cinemas of the Americas. He is Chair of the Department of Media & Communication Arts at The City College of New York. In addition, at the CUNY Graduate Center he is a member of the doctoral faculties of French, Film Studies and Comparative Literature and a Senior Fellow at the Bildner Center for Western Hemispheric Studies. He has lectured at Stanford, Columbia, Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (Cuba), and the University of Paris, among others.