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Cuban Cinema

At the beginning of "La vida es silbar" a woman named Bébé sits on the wall at the Malecón. Even as a woman, Bébé has remained a child who can imagine the world the way she wants it to be. This is even more typical for Cuban cinema than for other cinematographies: one wants to invent the world according to one's own ideas and, in doing so, rely on elements that are familiar to one. Directors like Gutiérrez Alea or Díaz Torres love to play with body language. Many Cuban films are interspersed with ambiguities and more or less clear political winks. The fortune teller in "Quiéreme y verás" predicts "frustración y salvación" for one of the bank robbers before the robbery (and thus: before the revolution) for what is to come. We have brought together a number of key works from Cuba, including "Memorias del subdesarrollo" by Gutierrez Alea and "Lucia" by Humberto Solás, two of the masterpieces of Latin American cinema in general.

Madagascar (1994)
Fernando Pérez
Cuba
48′
"I dream exactly what I live every day," a professor, bored with her mundane life, tells her therapist. But the visual evidence on screen at the start of "Madagascar" suggests that dreams are never that banal. Bicyclists crowd the street, riding to work in slow motion in a haunting, shadowy blue dawn. The 50-minute "Madagascar" has the resonance and eloquence of the best poetry, as it deftly turns an adolescent's search for identity into a metaphor for post-revolutionary Cuba. Laura is a professor at a shabby, stultifying college. Her daughter, Laurita, stops going to school, wishes to move to Madagascar and quickly races through several phases. One day, she looks like a heavy-metal fan, another like a bohemian who weeps at poetry and art. Slowly, she crosses the line from ordinary adolescent confusion to intense neurosis and beyond, finally becoming so obsessed with religion and good works that she brings 10 homeless children into the cramped house she shares with her mother and grandmother. The film's director, Fernando Perez, creates graceful scenes linked by the merest narrative thread. His compressed episodes make it clear that Laura and Laurita, pre- and post-revolutuonary women, share a desperate search for some purpose in life. When Laura looks wistfully at a photograph of herself in May 1969, it is a rare reference to her political dreams, yet Mr. Perez has created an extraordinary meditation on the lost promise of youth and revolution. (Caryn James, in The New York Times)
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Ultimos dias en La Habana (2016)
Fernando Pérez
Cuba
93′
Diego and Miguel are both in their mid-forties. They are living in a dilapidated apartment in central Havana without running water or any modern amenities. Miguel earns his money washing dishes in a privately run restaurant; he, his family and neighbours also care for Diego, who is bedridden on account of his HIV infection. While Diego tries to maintain his joie de vivre, Miguel becomes increasingly withdrawn. Only the two of them know about Miguel’s secret: he is planning to emigrate to the USA and is just waiting for his visa. When Diego’s condition deteriorates he is forced to go into hospital and leaves his room to his niece Yusi. When Miguel’s visa finally arrives it’s time for some surprising decisions - and not just for him. Writer, documentary filmmaker and director Fernando Pérez has based his screenplay on the lives of the inhabitants of a tenement building. The resulting film presents a vibrant kaleidoscope of emotions. Unfolding in tranquil images, this story of an unusual friendship also provides an insight into a culture in transition that requires constant flexibility and incredible optimism. A declaration of love to the Cuban capital and its inhabitants.
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Melaza (2012)
Carlos Lechuga
Cuba
82′
Money and love worries of swimming teacher Aldo and rum factory worker Monica in Melaza, the cradle of Cuban sugarcane. With tangible love for Cuba, the director takes a fresh look at his struggling characters: you can also learn to swim in a piscina without water. In the Cuban village of Melaza, named after the once flourishing sugarcane fields, time stands still. Even when all kinds of things happen, nothing ever changes. The State pretends to take care of everything, but it shuts the rum factory and makes swimming lessons impossible. There's no use complaining, think the inhabitants, that’s just how it is. Melaza is the heartwarming love story of Aldo and Monica, a photogenic couple who live in a much too small cottage with their fat daughter and grumpy grandma. They try very hard to earn some extra money. Their attempts finally get the couple into deeper and deeper trouble. But together, the lovers manage to pull through it. New talent Carlos Lechuga tells his critical story with humour and sparse dialogue, taking us on a journey to the beauties of rural Cuba. Far from the hotels and from Havana, but with a reality familiar to everyone who has ever been to Cuba - or faced a shortage of cash. (Filmfestival Rotterdam)
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La muerte de un burocrata (1966)
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Cuba
84′
The story begins with the death of a model worker, who is buried with his labor card as a badge of honor. However, his widow is told she needs that card to claim the benefits she is entitled. The story then takes several surreal turns, as the family of the dead man try to recover the precious card from the grave.
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