MATEO is the story of Matthew “Mateo” Stoneman as he travels the world making music. Mateo is a mariachi artist, but his musical sensibilities are far more advanced than any set conventional genre. We see him recording music in Cuba, playing live to a crowded restaurant in Los Angeles and then we are whisked away to Japan where patient and respectful audiences find Mateo’s brand of musicianship profound and deeply moving. This is a stirring tale of a man who may seem awkward on the surface, but is in fact a true artist with incredible musical ability.

I really liked where the story of Mateo goes in this documentary. Filmmaker Aaron Naar gives us a real window into the life of this underdog musician who has gone from time behind bars and struggling on the streets of L.A. to being a world renowned artist. The music in this film is amazing and as the film goes on we get to experience more of the recording sessions and performances that became a part of Mateo’s latest album. As we move forward getting more familiar with the artist, we see his flaws and vices and these elements bring a real sense of humanity to a picture that would otherwise be behind the scenes album material. MATEO really delves into some intense subject matter and at times it can be off-putting, but damn if it isn’t fascinating.


Matthew Stoneman is first introduced to us as a musician who travels everywhere with his acoustic guitar and plays Central American influenced music. He has recorded along side the likes of Buena Vista Social Club and he is an independent artist with a literal storage unit filled with his recordings, press and merchandise. We see him as a do-it-yourself artist making his way between Southern California and Cuba and while he works to move forward as a musician, we are given insight into his troubled past and what his current struggles are as a true independent auteur.

MATEO is a fascinating and intense watch that may make you very uncomfortable at times, yet in the end the film is an incredibly moving story of a man doing what he loves. Artist documentaries are not always entertaining, but this film has some amazing moments when Matthew Stoneman is making and conducting his music. When his group ensembles all come together, the music they make is fantastic and it makes you want a soundtrack immediately. Even the more intimate songs where it’s just Mateo’s voice and guitar are fantastic. This movie is overall great and should definitely be seen by fans of world music and independent artists.

Hawkins’ Rating: 


Out of a Possible 5 Stars