Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — The pirated version of “Historias Callejeras” (Street stories), episodes 6 and 7 are now readily available for Cubans eager to see any material which offers an alternative to the boring official TV broadcasts. The show portrays a grim and violent reality on the Havana streets, the flip side of the Moon called Cuba.
Although an initial analysis of the show reveals mistakes in editing, breaks in the script and unequal performances, Alberto Yoel Garcia, the director and one of the lead actors in the series, expresses his optimism when he interviews himself in the Making Of which accompanies the latest episodes, which can be copied onto a USB for the modest price of 1 CUP (5 cents USD) each, at the many private places where digital materials are sold:
“In the beginning, 5 episodes leaked onto the street which, well, shouldn’t have been on the street, they escaped, but there they are, and people liked it, it seems like we will continue on with Historias Callejeras.”
The stories can be seen without having to see them in the order they were made, although there is a main theme, at least in the first five episodes, where vital matters in our reality appear in a frank manner, such as drugs, prostitution, violence and the black market. These topics are dealt with by other audiovisual productions, however, the difference here lies in the fact that they take center stage in the script and they appear “without mincing their words”.
Specialist critics have material to criticize in ever chapter if we were dealing with the finesse of this art, but the team led by Yoel has extenuating circumstances: they are a young collective with minimum material resources, and moreover they are dealing with this dark side of our everyday lives that many “people high up” don’t want to see or hear.
Jennifer Villanueva takes on the character of Ana, the mother of a girl who is victim and part of the world created by her mother’s choice that she earns a living by selling her body to tourists, necessarily linking herself to the marginalized in her neighborhood. Jennifer confesses that her performance “has nothing to do with how she is as a person,” but that she’s happy because, she adds, “It’s an excellent team of people, the results have been good and we hope that they are better.”
Meanwhile, Yoel states that the series is putting pressure on and will continue to put pressure on the hidden censorship that has accompanied national TV up until today when it comes to journalism or dramas that try to deal with problems that take place in the Cuban people’s everyday lives:
“I want to tell you that the series will continue and that there are very interesting stories which will shock many viewers with the development of each and every one of the characters.” There’s no doubt about it, in fact, watching fights between men provoked by heavy bets seem to be a story out of the Bronx, not Havana, at least not in the Havana that Socialism’s manipulating media broadcast.
Alberto Yoel Garcia doesn’t surprise us with his choice of drama, his previous work confirms his intentions: “Buquenque”, “Boteros” y “Cubanos por cuenta propia”, names which refer to the contradictions that go hand in hand with the inevitable reforms process which is half-way in progress, publicly hidden by the phrase “update of the Cuban model.”
It wasn’t chance that he chose a young collective, of unknown actors and assistants, without closing the doors to well-known celebrities who, as Yoel himself says, “could be included in the future,” but the young and daring director prefers those who are willing to learn, listen, far from artists that he himself labels “unbearable.”
It isn’t time to spoil the party with the Historias Callejeras collective by asking them inappropriate questions, as the Santero babalaos say you don’t ask what you already know.
Let’s hope that in spite of the abovementioned and imaginable limitations, trying to make irreverent TV in Cuba, they manage to continuously improve their shows without changing the intentions that motivate the Historias Callejeras collective.
Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]