Other Eyes Look at Cubans & More

Irina Echarry

New Film Directors showed their work. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 2 – Within last week’s Showing of New Film Directors, a competition took place that included artists from other countries and points of view toward Cubans.  Their documentaries, dramas and animated films revolve around similar themes, though with different focuses.

Two graduates from the International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños, on the outskirts of Havana, competed in the documentary category this year.

One was Mexican director Talia Garcia Aach, who in Bajo el mismo techo deals with one of the problems that harms human beings most: the lack of communication.  How do we achieve this when it’s necessary to coexist and tools for facilitating interaction don’t exist?

She tells us the solution could be love, but if love is absent, all that’s left is to resign oneself to misunderstanding.

The film portrays a mother who didn’t show her children affection when they needed it most.  The children don’t understand each other and act like strangers.  The boy is a late learner and says he doesn’t know other words then what others call him: “crazy,” “abnormal” or “retarded.”  The daughter callously asserts they’re not a family, but “three people living under the same roof.”

Another look that comes to us is from Peru —that of Milagro Farfan, the director of La tarea— which confirms the validity of love in all its magnitude.  

In the film, Sayne is an intelligent vivacious girl who lives in harmony with her mother and Mirna, the mother’s girlfriend.  Although the girl knows that her family is somehow different, she doesn’t feel different from other children.  The documentary demonstrates the relationship of harmony between the three, even when the girl cries or becomes jealous of Mirna.

In very organic language, the naturalness of different sexual orientations is assumed, demonstrating that the true acceptance of others can be reached if we leave behind prejudices and taboos.

Films on Cuban reality

In this ninth annual edition, a wide range of issues —though recurring— have contributed new perspectives on the social situation of Cuba at this moment.

The theme of living in exile is approached by Javier Labrador and Juan Carlos Sanchez in the documentary HABANAver.T.a 31kb/seg. It focuses on email correspondence between two women: one living outside the island and obsessed with memories…with the past, and the other one living in Cuba, tormented by a present that fails to offer her many chances for happiness.

With no spoken dialogue —only images of Havana captured at different times and accompanying their letters— the end is dramatic: the friend on the outside returns ill, while the one who lives in Cuba decides to leave in search of an alternative.  So the distance will persist, but will it end up dissolving their email relationship?

Another concrete reality is revealed in Yamada Prdida, by Javier Arévalo Felipe, a documentary that mixes fiction (symbolizing thousands of Cubans) and interviews on the street to investigate the impact of cell phones on our society: their use, prices and the social differences these have created.  In the title (“Lost Call,” misspelled), reference is made to one of the problems involved in the need to write text messages quickly, which causes spelling mistakes that then become the norm among those who send and receive these messages.

Dany y el club de los berracos, animated by Victor Alfonso Cedeño, enters the world of adolescents: their behavior, desires and frustrations.  Dany has problems relating to people. What’s more, he’s not satisfied with his physical appearance or his lack of success with girls at school.  He decides to follow his friend’s advice and lie to Amarilis so she’ll like him. Through this Dany becomes (according to him) a hero who saved people from an erupting volcano and who traveled to meet Don Omar (where they become good friends).  He even dares to say Amarilis is his girlfriend.  However, when the girl’s real boyfriend appears Dany has no other remedy than to admit to his lies.

Humor characterizes the audaciousness, which helps make the diverse public thoroughly enjoy it.

El mundo de Raul, only 20 minutes long, draws us in. The film short presents itself as being among the film vanguard in this work in which a son —attentive to his sick mother, respected in his town, and who seemingly has a tranquil life— is suffering inner torture.

The anxiety builds as you think of what his mother or their neighbors will say if they discover Raul likes to look at women from afar and masturbate, hidden behind the foliage of some bush.  Jessica Rodriguez and Zoe G. Miranda rely on the character’s sincerity, without judging, without deciding whether he’s good or bad. They let him talk about his day-to-day routine and his desires so that we can understand him.

In Immobile, Luis Miguel Cruz provides testimonies from old projectionists concerning “Mobile Cinema,” a cultural initiative that traveled to the most remote Cuban mountain towns to screen movies for campesinos, and which ceased for some reason no one can explain.  It’s a journey through the nostalgic recollections of those who brought happiness in images, sharing them with children and adults living far from city life.

In the Exhibit, all of this was to be seen: worries, memories, human conflict, encounters, and hopes.  The young directors of the island have a lot to tell.  Beyond those films that will be awarded, this ninth edition reaffirms that the chance to see such works has been a privilege for Cubans.