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 ...

[3]:" target="_blank [6]:" target="_blank


Independent Discussion Guidelines

what a great article and info about how the hauntingly beautiful "Hallelujah" came to be on the soundtrack. Where can we hear more from this new young singer-songwriter, jason castro?

sandya (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

what a wonderful article, and it's a great story as to how the producers found out about the incredibly talented Jason Castro. His version of Hallelujah is just breathtaking. I was fortunate enough to have heard him sing this live and let me tell you he can bring tears to your eyes with this song. Thank you for this blog.

Sandya, glad you're interested in learning more about Jason. You can visit his official website, and/or his myspace at

To meet some fans of Jason, you're more than welcome to join us at :) hope to see you there!

kelsey (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 11:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So ecstatic to read about how Jason's version of Hallelujah was discovered and how it came to be in the movie.

From the first time I heard Jason sing, I knew he possessed something very special. His voice is passionate and you feel the words his sings and not just hear them. The tone of his voice is almost ethereal.

Can't wait to see Amar A Morir and buy the soundtrack.

Altrock4u (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 12:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice article, talented singer, but falls far short of Jeff Buckley's interpretation: too much breath, non-musical mumbles, and an over-reliance on vibrato.

My kids insist, however, that Rufus Wainwright's fine version is #1.

binky (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A very nice article! Jason's version of Hallelujah is my favorite. This was such a heartfelt performance. Can't wait to see the movie and buy the soundtrack!

needacoke (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I had the honor of being in attendance at the premier this wonderful movie, Amar a Morir. I have the utmost respect for the producer, writer/director, cinematographer, sound editors and engineers, cast and crew for making this very intense and enlightening film.

I thought the song Hallelujah, was not only hauntingly beautiful, but also fit like a glove in this movie.

Moreover, I felt the producers and sound engineers made a wise decision in using the version Hallelujah, as sung by Jason Castro, in this movie. I think Jason does justice and thensome to Leonard Cohen's amazingly written lyrics.

Other than Jeff Buckley and one other, I am not too familiar with the plethora of versions of this song.

I will say however, that when Jason Castro walked on stage to sing, I was held captive from the first. His beautiful rendition brought tears to my eyes.

Great movie. Fabulous song. Wonderful singer. All in all I wish everyone success.

And I want to thank the movie people for being so gracious to those of us in the audience. Kudos to a really class act.

MK204 (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 1:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice article. by the way, and I would have liked to see both the movie and his young singer's interpretation, live.

binky (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 2:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Very interesting article on how Jason Castro was invited to sing on the soundtrack. Jason Castro's rendition of the Jeff Buckley's version of this classic song is breathtakingly beautiful. Furthermore, Binky, Sandya, check out his interpretation of this great song at one of his live concerts from late last year. Here he sings with so much emotion and angst, you can feel his heart and soul with every note. Remarkable young singer/songwriter indeed. And I'm many more people are now being introduced to this amazing musician. Thank you Brett for this wonderful article.

suszalwaze (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you so much for your article. I really enjoyed reading how the film makers selected Jason Castro for their movie. I'm really looking forward to his career because he has a true passion for music.

rainbowlite (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2009 at 6:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ok, now reviewed all versions (thanks, YOUtube), and to say "does justice and thensome to Leonard Cohen's amazingly written lyrics" (MK 204), I'm gonna have to say, "understatement," I mean: TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. ok, words fail me on this . . . .

sandya (anonymous profile)
January 26, 2009 at 6:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: