HAVANA TIMES, Dec 18 — There’s no better way to get to know a person than to get close to them. This was the intention of Kristina Konrad in her documentary about one of the most renowned writers from Cuba: Maite Vera. I Saw the film during the recently concluded Havana Film Festival.
The Swiss director — who won the 2005 award for Best Latin American Film at the Havana Film Festival by a director from outside the region — is now bringing us more than ten years in the life of the writer. Condensed into 73 minutes, the movie was shot in three countries: Cuba, Germany and Denmark.
Titled “Cuando eramos felices… y no lo sabiamos” (When we were happy…and didn’t know it), Konrad shows us Vera in her everyday life: at the corner store, talking with neighbors in her building, on the set of a film, in the company of visiting friends and family members.
Her son (a musician who lives in Denmark) turns out to be an important figure both in Vera Maite’s life and in the film. Through him, we learn how this Cuban family introduces itself into the dynamics of Danish life without losing its identity. The transition has been such that at a one point the musician says, “The only thing that has changed is the climate.”
Maite, who is used to being behind the camera, appears to us very comfortable in front of it as well. Perhaps she’s influenced by the friendship that connects her with the director. Then too, it could be her desire to make herself known to her public, who know already know her well through her characters and stories, but not as the person who writes those telenovelas.
What is surprising is her simplicity, her kindness and above all her loneliness.
Though we see her talking and interacting with plenty of people (including family members), the documentary makes it clear that much of Maite’s life is spent in solitude. Yet she overcomes the distance from loved ones with hard work, humor and vitality.
The film is positive, clear, free of sugarcoating and — most importantly — very sincere.