By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – We all have an intimate inner world where we can do incredible things and create a better world for ourselves. The imagination that fiction inspires in us is similar to dreaming, except we’re not asleep. At thirteen, I was Errol Flynn’s lover. He took me around in his boat, and together we had countless adventures. He was my beau.
El Mundo de Nelsito [“Little Nelson’s World”], the latest film from Cuban director Fernando Perez, is one of the entries in Havana’s 43rd Festival of Latin American Cinema. The film was created in partnership with the Spanish company Wanda Films, and the Cuban Institute for Cinematic Art and Industry (ICAIC). It was filmed on location in Alamar, Boyeros, 10 de octubre and the City of Plaza, all in Havana.
Perez is skilled at portraying life on the island. He’s previously done so with films such as Suite Havana, La pared de las palabras [“Wall of Words”], Hello Hemingway and Ultimos dias en La Habana [“Last days in Havana”].
The plot of Perez’ latest film revolves around a young man of humble origins who has an unnamed disability. He lives with his mother, a divorced artist whose paintings aren’t selling.
The youth’s strange affliction is never spoken of, but he always appears lying down and never speaks. At one moment, he sees that the door has been left open, and takes advantage of it to go out on the street, where he suffers an accident.
That trip outside is a kind of liberation for him, since it opens a secret door which he alone has access to. He begins to spin tales in which his neighbors participate, but with other lives.
His characters are everyday people who are actively seeking some way to live, in the middle of an economic crisis which parallels their existential crises. Very credible.
The outlandishness of the stories is entertaining. His own mother is now seen as a successful painter, recognized worldwide and very wealthy. However, she isn’t happy. She maintains an amorous relationship with a gigolo, tolerating his deceits and physical mistreatment.
His mothers’ friends are an art dealer and a doctor. Both of them support and participate in her excesses, even a murder.
There are no good and bad characters. They’re all tied to one another in some way, and they carry within themselves their conflicts and their guilt.
The dark passions are explored through black comedy; the tragic events provoke peals of laughter, even if it’s a little bitter.
It’s a world that’s dark, subjective, and not at all pleasant. It’s the real world – cruel and without ethical values. No one would suspect that a kid prostrated on his bed could have such an imagination.
There’s one scene where a couple hits an old woman with their car. Afterwards, a watchman and his wife who witnessed the act try to blackmail them, demanding a thousand dollars. The watchman suggests one of two versions to tell the police: “That they saw the woman jump on the car”; or, the second, “They were going too fast”. They must choose.
On the flip side – at the end, the film teaches us something about love, friendship and compassion.
Director Fernando Perez has said that the film plays with narrative structures and characters. It’s true, life is rich, not everything is black and white.
The cast includes a number of excellent actresses: Isabel Santos, Laura de la Uz, Paula Ali, Jacqueline Arenal, Edith Massola and Yerlin Perez. It also includes Jose Raul Castro in his film debut as Nelsito.
Sheila Pool did a good job on the soundtrack, predominantly Cuban music. Raul Prado was in charge of photography, where the frequent close-ups give a sense of intimacy between the characters and the spectators. The work is dedicated to deceased photography director Raul Perez Ureta, highly regarded by Cuban filmmakers for his expressive use of light in a scene.
I can tell you that I enjoyed the film hugely and was never bored. It’s very funny, just like Ultimos dias en La Havana.
Yesterday, the Cine Yara in Havana overflowed with members of the public who rewarded the premier with excited applause. Now, we’re only awaiting the judges’ decision. I hope it wins an award.