A Unique Vision on Life in a Country Full of Symbols

Cuban filmmaker Fernando Perez

Fernando Perez. Photo: jagramfilmfestival.com.in

Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES — Fernando Perez makes auteur cinema*, his unique vision on life in his country is full of symbols and characters who translate his desires, sadness and joy, and they make up a language (another one) to trace our present reality.

After watching Suite Habana (2003), a film without any dialogue, but with powerful visual images, I said to myself: how is he going to beat this movie? Is it a documentary or feature film? The limits don’t really matter, the stories are what’s essential here, the everyday lives of the city’s poorest people.

The father who has a son with Downs Syndrome, whose only entertainment is going up to the roof at night with his son to watch the stars; the elderly couple who live in a dump of extreme poverty, but used to be renowned professors back in their heyday; the old peanut seller, who goes out every day to try her luck; the young man who works in a hospital laundry and does night shows as a transvestite; the man who is getting ready to leave the country; the worker who goes to plays music at church after work; the dancer who has to fix up his home, because it’s literally falling on top of his head…

These are harsh, true stories; the characters were filmed acting out their own lives. Towards the end of the movie, there is an epilogue: where they talk about their dreams. And you have to see the kind of dreams these diverse characters have!

I urge you to go out and look for this beautiful Cuban production, which received the jury prize at the Trieste Film Festival, also winning the Coral prize for best director, and the best soundtrack at the Havana International Latin American Film Festival.

Ultimos dias…  (The Last Days in Havana)

Ultimos dias en La Habana has just premiered in the capital. It has won various international film awards, such as the best Ibero-American movie at the Malaga Film Festival.

This time, Perez brings us a story about friendship, a duet between two characters: the debilitated gay man who has AIDs and is dying, and the dishwasher who longs to go to the United States. However, even though these friends are in a constant dichotomy, they love each other and proof of this is clear: they help each other in a context where uncertainty, material and human poverty reign, with a city that seems to be stopped in time in the background, the Havana of people who struggle to survive, this Havana that displays its ugly faces, forgotten by God, the ones who have no choice.

It’s worth watching the performance of the leading actors Jorge Martinez and Patricio Wood who “lived as their characters during those days”, and then stop and think: are there really people like them in Old Havana, living together in a rundown building but with great dignity? Are there lives so small yet so great like these ones, which nobody knows about and which many people don’t care about getting to know?

And of course it is possible, reality always outdoes fiction.

Fernando Perez’s latest movie might not be his greatest work but it is shot with forceful images, some of the characters draw you in while others have that certain halo of mystery. But you will laugh, in spite of the tragedy.

*A filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film its personal and unique stamp.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.