Cuban Punk Rock and an Installment of the Spoon River Series (Video)



By Adonis Milan

HAVANA TIMES – The fifth installment of the mini-series “Spoon River” presents well-known punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, a controversial band that was founded in 1998 and led by Gorki Aguila, one of the most irreverent artists to have been born in Cuba. The series is a film adaptation of the famous “Spoon River Anthology”, by US poet Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950), with a contemporary and Caribbean take on the poems without losing the mystical and ghost-like halo of each individual poem.

Dorcas Gustine is the poem’s narrator, the main character of this work, a kind of copy of musician Gorki Aguila in the town of Spoon River, as irony would have it, as this literary work was written in 1915 in a very different context to our own. However, today, someone is reading it to the camera, a person whose own personal story seems to fit perfectly with every word.

This isn’t acting, Gorki and Dorcas are one and the same and they talk about the same thing, a person marginalized by a conservative and repressive society, for the same reason: speaking their mind.  Even their names seem to coincide like the inexplicable magic of the world of characters and actors that play them. A visual discourse is gradually built up using photography and editing, keeping well away from conventional methods, and diving into experimental techniques instead.  

Create with whatever it is you have! that is this series’ maxim. As a result, the aesthetics are marked by the financial shortcomings of low-budget filmmaking and take on the dynamics of the space it is shot in.

In the recording studio of Porno para Ricardo, known as “La Paja Record”, lives in this spooky atmosphere, contrasting between the two landscapes the character wanders in. The first corresponds to the moment in the text when Lee Masters, with a blue light that gives the feeling of coldness and absence. In the second landscape, however, the light is red as if it were sending us to hell, where the band plays its old tunes in a frenzy: Me Cago and La Estaca. 

Freedom is the path of the actors/musicians in this short movie. They reach a state of musical euphoria when they are in a frenzy, contrasting with Gorki’s clarity and moderation when he reads his lines.

This punk rock band has appeared in Cuban film in spite of all of the persecution they have suffered. Such is the case with the movie Habana Blues (2005), directed by Benito Zambrano, in which Gorki had a character he could never play because he was in prison because of a dirty trick Cuba’s State Security forces played on him, and he more recently appears in the movie Corazon azul, directed by Miguel Coyula. Their international performances and the underground distribution of their music in Cuba, has saved them from anonymity.  They continue to grow like an urban myth against totalitarian censorship and repression.

Porno del Ricardo’s reality is also one of painful ostracism, which these musicians have been condemned to by the Communist regime, just because they sing their irreverant thoughts on the old tyrants of the Regression. The character Gorku plays is also just as trasgressive, preferring to go to war before being a coward, because he is a man driven by his principles.

With this series on-screen, collaborative relationships between independent and censored artists have been formed on “the island that produces sugar cane” (that cry in Havana’s Villanueva Theater, in 1869, which led to the bloody repression of Spanish volunteers against Independence supporters). Our work is also a cry for freedom and non-conformity, which is critical right now when people on this island are trapped in a “temporary” state of growing decadence.




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