A Grand Hallelujah for Amar A Morir

With writer and director, Fernando Lebrija, producer and co-writer, Harrison Reiner, and the film's star, Jose Maria de Tavira, in attendance, the Mexican/Columbian co-production - Amar A Morir - received its world premier at the Lobero Theatre last night. And, along with a post screening Q+A session, the premier also featured a live performance by American Idol finalist Jason Castro.


Harrison Reiner, Fernando Lebrija, and Jose Maria de Tavira at a Q+A session following Friday night's screening of Amar A Morir. By Brett Leigh Dicks.

Castro performed his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" from the film's soundtrack. The song features prominently in the final scenes of the film and its inclusion was seeded early within the editing process when editor - Radu Ion used the Jeff Buckley version as musical reference for soundtracking the scene.


Jason Castro performing "Hallelujah" at the Lobero Theatre Friday night. By Brett Leigh Dicks.

"What you do on a movie is you do a temp track before you tape your final music," explained Reiner from the stage of the Lobero. "Our editor, Radu Ion, threw in "Hallelujah." It is such a beautiful song and even through we were watching the edits over and over and over again, each time it still made me cry."

With the song perfectly resonating the emotional bearing of the scene, the producers investigated the rendition further.

"I wanted to find out who this singer is and then of course I found out that he was dead," recalled Reiner. "So that wasn't going to work really well for us :"

With their minds made up that "Hallelujah" was the song for the scene, the producers then set about researching other versions of Cohen's definitive elegy. With the song having been recorded by everyone from Bono to Willie Nelson to kd lang, there were certainly no shortage of options. But none resonated with the film-makers to the depth that the Buckley version did.

They then did what every good music placement team does these days, they turned to YouTube. And it was there that Reiner discovered Jason Castro's rendition. Castro had sung the Buckley version of the song in the third week of American Idol competition last year and a recording of the performance had found its way onto the video hub.

"I entered the word "Hallelujah" I didn't know what would come up," enlightened Reiner. "And suddenly I see the face of this guy with dreads and I listened to him singing the song and thought 'oh my god, this is amazing."

With the producers subsequently securing Castro's participation in the soundtrack, the singer's inclusion is only fitting given both his Columbian heritage and the Buckley connection he had already forged. Immediately proceeding Castro's presentation of "Hallelujah" on American Idol, Buckley's recording surged to Number One on both iTunes' Singles Chart and Billboard's Digital Song Chart.

Some ten years after his death, Jeff Buckley is finally gracing the top of the charts ...

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