Stories of the Pandemic in Cuban Cinema

From the short film titled Gallo

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – Cuentos de un día mas (Tales of one more day), is a feature film related to the pandemic and its effects on Cuban families. A difficult process that has caused breaks of all kinds.

The stories of the six new filmmakers, curated by director Fernando Perez, show us these human conflicts.

Rosa María Rodríguez, presents La trenza (Braids), which takes place in a Havana tenement, with a young girl as the protagonist. The rarefied atmosphere of the home already tells us that life is hard there. Her mother is a hairdresser, and she is always busy and hardly has time to dedicate to her daughter. Meanwhile, her father is a sick alcoholic, a null case for her education.

Due to the closure of the schools, the little one spends her time playing in the hallways of the tenement. She has a pet pigeon which is always with her, perhaps the best way for her to combat the isolation.

Child abuse is also present. Her mother uses her as an emissary to resolve the issues of illegal purchases, and the manipulation that she suffers hints at the final outcome of the film.

What is interesting to me is the use of the camera in hand, which follows the girl up long stairs and into the recesses of the building. The lighting is opaque, reflecting the oppression of the environment where she moves.

In the second story, La muchacha de los pájaros (The Girl with the Birds), written and directed by Alan Gonzalez, a young woman comes to a large house to clean up and collect the belongings of a person who apparently died, although that is not clarified but the images suggest it. The narrative hardly resorts to dialogue, everything is in the actions. There is no music, just the sound of the birds in their cages.

Mercuria is a girl who delivers beverages to homes with her electric motorcycle. Her daily life is monotonous, sad, and she is surrounded by uncertainty, even dangers, but she maintains constant communication with an emigrated friend. Both have been stranded in the memories of their past life. Director Carolina Fernández Vega Charadán, is committed to portraying the isolation process, from the perspective of the independent working woman.

When two strangers meet there are possibilities, that is in El y Ella, (He and Her) with a script by Amílkar Salati and directed by Yoel Infante. An ex-convict starts working as a guard in a movie theater, but everything changes when a woman he sees every night catch a taxi is unable to, due to the Covid-19 curfew.

The man offers her the cinema to spend the night. Something unusual happens when he puts on some Cuban films for her that bring them closer and move them in the midst of their respective solitudes. A halo of hope of love and mutual company seeps through.

In the fifth story, by Katherine T. Gavilán and Sheyla Pool, a girl spends her time photographing Havana at night from her balcony, when suddenly a stranger breaks into her apartment and forces her to have sex. However, it is only a game because they are a couple, and they have found a peculiar way to break the routine.

Perhaps the most moving of all is Gallo, directed by Eduardo Eimil, which shows the most terrible loneliness, that of a musician who hopes to meet his wife who returns from abroad and must pass the quarantine. His hope of seeing her is cut short when he finds out that she is sick with Covid 19. Since she cannot receive visits, he devises a way to play for her from outside the hospital.

Although the quality and the realization of Cuentos de un día mas is uneven (because it was filmed in record time) either due to sound problems in some stories, others, however, have a more experimental photography and better performances. The work of the young filmmakers is interesting; how they have been able to recreate the pain and isolation of this stage of our lives, which is not over yet.

Here is the making of Cuentos de una día más:

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here.