It was almost too good to be true. Margaret Yeh, a woman who looked a lot like Minnie Miñoso, was invited to be an oral historian. Her principal task: to conduct the interview about Miñoso that was so urgent that she was transcribing it more like an interview than a transcript, lining them up so that hers and Miñoso’s words would blend together with a hypnotic growl. Her voice was the one that was missing.
For years, Miñoso had been waiting for an official documentary about her to be completed. “Mi Soy Minnie,” a nearly 90-minute film based on several books about her, was thought to be finished in 2013. But, after an appearance at the Telluride Film Festival, it turned out the filmmakers had hit snags. Miñoso’s life and career as a dancer and choreographer were still considered a secret and she refused to participate in interviews.
This video from the National Film Preservation Foundation explains how difficult it was to get Miñoso on board.
The filmmakers, Peter Rieveschl and Kaitlyn Hale, set out to find a voice that would become the foundation of the documentary. The secret voice, they discovered, was more author than filmmaker — a small voice with a lot of passion and energy. Within weeks of meeting Yeh, she became a living, breathing composite of Miñoso.