HAVANA TIMES — The few surviving theaters where new releases are shown in Havana have been filling up with people eager to see Ernesto Daramas’ film “Conducta” (Conduct), starring Alina Rodriguez, Yuliet Cruz and Armando Valdes Freire, the leading child actor who plays the character of “Chala.”
The film, which tackles a highly interesting social problem we face today, makes us think and realize that stories like its plot are becoming more and more common in our society and that we often do not want to put such topics on the table – perhaps because of how complicated the issue is and because we want to talk about something that provokes less sadness and anxiety.
Generally speaking, our news programs and newspapers sugarcoat Cuban reality and a good many films resort to mockery or comedy to tackle these issues.
We tend to jeer at our own misfortunes, and we are unable to take in and process our problems and what they can lead us to.
In my opinion, this film, though an excellent movie, pales in comparison to the real world, where everything tends to be far cruder.
I think that in Cuba, though there are thousands of children like Chala, there are very few teachers like Carmela (Alina Rodriguez).
Today, our badly-paid teachers easily become corrupt. The mere fact they need a bit more money does the trick. It would be unfair to paint all of them with the same brush (there’s probably some that aren’t corrupt), but times are indeed tough.
We live in a country where everything is falling apart bit by bit and, if we continue to move at a snail’s pace to find solutions to our problems, we won’t see any significant results any time soon and we will end up rotting, all of us.
I live in a poor neighborhood where kids have the right to an education, that’s true. But you should see how many of these kids live. For the most part, their homes are in precarious condition. They share a roof with their parents, senile grandparents, cousins, uncles, brothers and other relatives.
As many as ten or fifteen people from different generations, each with their particular ways of thinking and acting, are forced to crowd together under a single asbestos cement roof.
I’ve seen children who are barely twelve smoking on the streets and throwing stones at old people – and I have had to intervene to prevent such things from happening.
There are times one can’t do anything about these things, because many of these kids hang out and tend to do things as a gang. If you try and reprimand them for their bad behavior, you won’t find yourself in a comfortable situation.
I’ve seen them club cats to death. Some also throw these animals at fight dogs and enjoy watching how they are killed.
Watching them closely, I realize these are today’s kids, the men and women of the future, the kind Fidel Castro would not want for socialist Cuba. These are kids devoid of all humanity, whose actions never suggest any good intentions – and that is frightening.
Chala, the main character in Conducta, is a kind-hearted kid. He likes his teacher because he realizes she cares for him and, in a certain way, protects him. His bad behavior stems from the little attention he gets from his alcoholic and drug-addicted mother (Yuliet Cruz) and his father’s absence.
Chala acts and thinks as he lives, but he is very different from the children I see in my neighborhood every day, children who are already having sex, children who, barely twelve, assume the attitudes of adults – they feel the need to rough it, to go out in search of money on their own, because they believe or think that money is what moves the world. They want new clothing and cell phones to get the attention of their peers.
They’re no longer interested in Disney movies, much less Cuban animated films or children’s songs. Instead, they watch pornography, listen to reggaeton music, go to discos for kids, start fights and threaten each other with switch blades. They drink alcohol and throw away their childhood.
Young girls have sex with adults, become pregnant at a very early age and, as one would expect, these minors give birth to children that will be like today’s children, and so on and so forth. Things are becoming more and more complicated because, by the looks of it, no one can solve the problems of the many dysfunctional families that abound in these neighborhoods today.
Conducta has come at the right time. It is a sad film, but it is well received by an audience that perhaps believes it is pure fiction, not knowing that reality is far harsher.