The Last Country/ The Great Personal Journey

Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – “El ultimo pais” (The last country) is the latest movie from filmmaker Gretel Marin, who graduated from the Department of Audiovisual Communications (FAMCA). It was shown last Thursday at the Studio ST, located on E Street between 21st and 23rd streets, in the Vedado neighborhood.

An alternative space which initially makes up for art school graduates’ demand to take the reins of their professional careers now and in the future in Cuba as they lack other spaces to do so.

 “What seemed to be a trip back to my country at a time of change, ends up being an inner journey, between contradictions and doubts about my identity as a Cuban,” Marin writes in her synopsis.

This self-reference movie really does try to get to the heart of the matter and asks many questions along the way that don’t always have an answer.

What is Homeland? What does it mean to be Cuban? Who were her grandparents? Who were her parents? It might sound naive that a woman who is on her way to maturity needs to travel abroad in order to ask all of these questions, at least to someone who hasn’t lived the post-revolution or post-Communist fiasco in Cuba.

These emotions were in fact dormant, as Marin rightly expresses in her documentary. Born in the ‘90s, amidst ruin and marked by the transition after the USSR collapsed, her generation has no other hope but to emigrate.

Once they leave that bubble and enter the real world, Marin discovers that she is someone and that she wasn’t the only person to think the way she does, it is just an aftershock of something that happened elsewhere. So Cuba isn’t the last country in her eyes, rather it’s her personal ideal of Cuba. The Homeland as a mental state, as an anachronism.

She takes the moment that US-Cuban relations thawed as a starting point for her movie and it all seemed to be an explosion of freedom and prosperity when she sees it from the outside.

However, social processes are slower. You can’t deny what the people have been told over and over again over the past 60 years. It’s no longer the time for a revolution. Utopias have vanished into thin air. So what do we turn to?

This documentary examines history through the eyes of three generations: her own, that of her parents and the one and her grandparents. Full of truths and contradictions, Marin thought that she would return home to live, but without knowing it, she is losing touch. 

Her survival options differ greatly from what she hoped. Between tears and overwhelming loneliness, she realizes that she won’t be able to stay.

An intimate movie that converses with reality from its own spaces of social interaction: school, the street, the city.

Its nostalgia reminds you of movies like Good Bye Lenin, where the lead character says: “It’s so sad when everything changes, when we don’t really want them to.” For her part, Marin says: “I’m still an idealist.”

This is how the director bids farewell to a time that only remains in the memories of her predecessors and, more than being sentimental, launches a generational cry about the need to actively participate in Cuban society today.

The movie made its debut at the Amsterdam World Cinema Festival and has been selected at film festivals in Malaga and Rio de Janeiro. It’s an independent movie that deserves to be shown in Cuban movie theaters.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.