Cuba’s Film Festival & Its Stories

By Irina Echarry

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 9 — What Cuban moviegoers appreciate most about the Havana Film Festival are different views about life in the participating countries.

Yet when these views differ from the stereotypes, people react in different ways. Some will walk out of the theater, while others will stay (though disturbed) to see what happens. Many people, though, will simply enjoy how close those human stories are to their own.

Remolino (Brazil, 2011) is a film that revolves around an elderly woman in the town of Minas Gerais. The film is about the life of Bastu, focusing on her emotions.

The death of her husband forces her to turn to her memories while everyday life involves her in an interesting relationship with her grandchildren: tradition and newness, the confluence of two generations that accept each other without conditions.

Her friend Mary (another elderly woman) is sustained by the world of dancing and drumming, with these breathing a life force into her. It is a pleasant film, with a simple story, captivating, distant from the famous Brazilian favelas and a good candidate for the Opera Prima (debuting work) award.

Also coming from Brazil is Ella soño que mori (She dreamed that she died), a 75-minute documentary narrated by foreign prisoners in Brazil. Some are accused of drug trafficking, others convicted of human trafficking; then too, there are those who don’t say why they’re serving time in prison, but all the men and women offer their personal stories, full of emotions, errors and desires to reconstruct their lives.

Photo: Caridad

With a discrete set that consists of a table, a chair and a few views of the prison, the grace of the film lies in the sympathy transmitted by the people who tell their stories. Some are more interesting than others, but each one traces their personality through their narratives.

Also being shown at the festival, but as a kind of sample-homage, are several productions directed by graduates of the International School of Film and Television of San Antonio de los Baños (Cuba), which this year is marking the 25th year since its founding.

Cochochi is one of the films that are a part of this sample. It’s the story of two brothers (Evaristo and Tony) of the Tarahumara ethnic group in northern Mexico.

When they finish elementary school, Evaristo wants to continue studying. However Tony, who actually is a better student in school, wants to follow another way of life outside of school. He wants to be free to do what he desires outdoors, without being confined by the rigmarole of studies.

It is a realistic view of the environment surrounding these two children; two points of view about the same problem.

The children embark on a journey through the mountains with medicine they need to deliver, after stealing their grandfather’s horse which they lose due to carelessness. The children separate, each living and experiencing their own journey, though they finally meet up again in the school.

Evaristo’s torment over having stolen and lost the horse contrasts with the freshness with which Tony assumes the problem, but a “happy ending” surprises the viewer, each boy gets what they want without questioning whether it’s good or not for others.

Such stories abound in this year’s festival, human stories that help us know ourselves better.

The Havana Film Festival continues through Sunday Dec. 11.