The Wild Woman, a Film by Cuban Director Alan Gonzalez

Screenshot form “The Wild Woman”, Alan Gonzalez dir., 2023

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban cinema of the last decade has been characterized by offering a discourse on life in marginalized neighborhoods. Whether to give them visibility or because of the dark stories that reflect violence, in accordance with an environment that inherently immerses us in the lack of material resources, vices, and crime, as well as family and neighborly hostility.

The major problem stems from a country with inequalities, now much more evident after the pandemic, poor monetary “reordering” (reform), and inflation.

There are known good productions, with some notable examples such as Los dioses rotos (2008) and Conducta (2014). Both films were written and directed by Ernesto Daranas. The first is about a teacher who investigates Alberto Yarini, the famous pimp, and gets involved in an atmosphere tainted by prostitution and immorality. The second features a problematic schoolboy who, due to extreme poverty and an incapable mother, survives by training fighting dogs.

However, Últimos días en La Habana by director Fernando Pérez maintains its premise in optimism, moving between comedy and melodrama. Diego is a gay man diagnosed with AIDS, living in a tenement, accompanied by his friend Miguel, who helps him and maintains the house. His dream is to move to the United States, but he is tied to his sick companion. The film is a tribute to friendship and the possibilities of being happy, despite the imminent threat of death.

La mujer salvaje, the first feature film by Alan Gonzalez, also introduces us to these sordid environments, but with the difference that a bloody event has occurred, which guides and separates the characters. Endorsed by awards at the Ceara, Brazil Film Festival, it won Best Film, Best Actress, and Best Sound. Likewise, at the last Havana Latin American Film Festival, it won in the Best First Feature category.

This story is not linear; it begins with fragments and reveals what happened in an unconventional way. Yolanda is a woman who has committed adultery, and her husband assaults the lover, nearly killing him. Consequently, her mother takes her grandson away to shield him from the toxic influence.

For most of the film, Yolanda is desperately searching for her son, constantly bombarded by the rejection of her neighbors, who see her as a whore. In her journey through these deprived neighborhoods, where overcrowded families barely survive, she encounters a transsexual who shows her the video of the fight, which has already gone viral. A policeman constantly monitors the house, and she escapes him to continue her search.

It’s an uncomfortable film, although the best part is the performance of Lola Amores. The Cuban actress, well-remembered for her role in Santa y Andrés (2016) by director Carlos Lechuga, portrays a complex character full of contradictions, exuding vulgarity and outbursts of violence in her actions. Even so, it is clear that she loves her son and fights to recover him.

I confess that I didn’t like it. The images are ugly, saturated with marginality and human misery. Additionally, as a low-budget production, it has lighting issues, dominated by bluish tones. The sound is barely intelligible, making it seem like they were speaking in another language. Subtitles would have been ideal to understand the actors’ dialogues. The soundtrack features reggaeton, something inherent to these settings. In the final credits, it closes with a song performed by Annia Linares, a good choice to lift spirits.

I saw this film at the Ludwig Foundation, a center for promoting Cuban artists. There in the video room, films are shown every Wednesday, followed by a debate with audience participation. This time it was Cuban cinema’s turn, with the director, screenwriter, and lead actress in attendance.

Discussion after the showing of the Wild Woman.

Read more from the diary of Irina Pino here.

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.