HAVANA TIMES, Feb 28 — Cuban cinematography is distinguished mainly by its quality, save a few unfortunate exceptions. Many movies have been made over the decades by generations of artists who have allowed us to enjoy intelligent films with excellent performances and evocative plots.
Although with few resources and limited financing for its productions, they have made incursions into almost every genre, while retaining a certain level of dignity. Without speaking chauvinistically, I think Cuban cinema is the best in Latin America.
Categorically, our cinematography is precisely this sense of nationhood, that stamp which is our own and possesses the details of localism, with these aspects having made it that much more universal.
A new production was released recently, written and directed by none other than Enrique Pineda Barnet. He is the director who obtained the first Oscar nomination for a Cuban film in the category of “Best Foreign Film” in 1991 with his unforgettable Bella del Alhambra.
The film was also the Goya Prize winner in 1990 from the “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Spain,” the winner of the “Premio Mano de Bronce” at the Latino Festival in New York and was honored with the “Premio Pitirre” Award at the Cinemafest Festical in San Juan, Puerto Rico – among other awards.
This time Barnet is presenting us with Verde Verde (Green-Green) an atemporal and a-spatial plot, but with obvious references to a chimerical Cuba. The story line develops from the gay flirtation between Alfredo, a sailor (a navy nurse, as Barnet himself calls the character), and Carlos (a trendy and go-getting computer technician).
The chronology of the story unfolds in three locations: a rundown bar along a port, Alfredo’s room (or shed), and a labyrinthine of corridors all linked by an old, dirty elevator.
I don’t think that the boldness of the film resides in the subject, although it doesn’t cease to be the perfect excuse for exorcising yesteryear’s hidden demons, those that a large part of the most notable Cuban intellectuals keep like a debt with society from their personal dramas.
It was Strawberry and Chocolate (by Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio, 1994) that was the first Cuban film to explicitly approach homosexuality, a sweetened variation of the excellent story El lobo, el bosque y el hombre nuevo, by Senel Paz.
At that time it was a controversial event, not for its actual content in itself, but for the reproach the topic had received here up until that moment.
Today we’re back to this topic with Verde Verde, this time with more acrimony, without social criticism, but with existential revelations.
Now that the campaign against homophobia in Cuba is fashionable, this is the right moment to bring to the surface so much contained eagerness in showing the many green faces masked in fear to show how mature they are.
However, I don’t think it is one of our most representative films. Its dense rhythmic tempo and the somewhat exotic manner of addressing this remind me more of films by Almodovar than ours.
The film possess very decent and organic performances by Hector Noas (Alfredo), Carlos Miguel Caballero (Carlos) and Farah Maria (The seductive madam), as well as the participation of the painter Rocio Garcia and art director Nevis Laferte. It was produced by ICAIC, Malas Compañías, Producciones Audiovisuales Artex, Ibermedia.
Enrique Pineda Barnet has premiered a film that departs from those epic or social dramas made in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with titles like Un pelea cubana contra los demonios, La ultima Cena, Lucia or Memorias del subdesarrollo or the comedies of the ‘80 like Se permuta or Los pajaros tirandole a la escopeta.
It even out distances the unhappy ‘90s co-productions like Hacerse el sueco and Amor vertical. It doesn’t have the mark of say Adorables mentiras, Clandestino, La vida es silbar or more recently Los Dioses rotos or Habanastation.
Verde-verde distances itself from all Cuban films. I’m not attempting to judge it as good or bad, but its difference has a color that is too green for my taste and, according to various different opinions, too green for the tastes of many others.