Author: Rolando Pérez Betancourt | firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2019 22:12:47
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Finally exhibited at the 41st New Latin American Film Festival, The Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas, 2019) makes it clear with historical objectivity that the Cubans who infiltrated counterrevolutionary Miami exile organizations had the right to watch over the security of their country, and thus stop the wave of terrorist attacks of the 1990s carried out under the protection of the United States.
This is an important aspect to be taken into account in the film by the Frenchman Assayas, a prestigious director whose work is known in our country. He has made it possible to appreciate the sensitivity of an artist capable of tackling the most dissimilar human problems from intimate stories.
Based on the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, by Fernando Morais, Assayas himself wrote the script about a conflict that – it could not be otherwise – establishes who are the aggressors and who are the victims in a history that goes back half a century.
It was enough for the Miami counterrevolution, without seeing the film, only news after its presentation at the Venice Film Festival, to make a fuss and a pathetic warning: in those lands, the film couldn’t even show its head.
The theme of the Five Heroes and the stories that flow from it would allow us to make a few films and series. But in any work based on reality, there is a selection of events and characters, along with artistic licenses put into function of a dramaturgy and simplification of the plot. From Morais’s book, Assayas highlights what he considered pertinent to build a web of events that span several years and not a few intrigues. Although the film has been promoted as an espionage thriller, the director says that it is a historical vision conceived with the intention of capturing a feat that, after he learned about it it, captivated him.
It was advisable, however, to balance the tone and balance the conflict in such a way that a whole point of view in favor of the revolutionary cause did not prevail in a film with foreign funding and international distribution. Besides, the assumption of the political factor in any subject is always a reason for division of opinions and even entrenchments. These can be seen now, even, in “artistic” criticisms in which ideological positions against the “Cuban communist regime” stand out more than an unprejudiced practice of professional analysis.
But facts are facts and artistic honesty, although it is necessary to qualify, cannot be detached from them.
For this chronicler, The Wasp Network ends up being a film worthy and meritorious to see, which is not free of inconsistencies in its realization. Of these, the most significant, is the dispersion motivated by wanting to cover everything and explain more than necessary, taking into account the possible ignorance of the subject that an international audience could have. In this sense, the script resorts to leaps in time and an entry and exit of characters that leaves gaps in terms of purposes of the story and the lack of roundness of certain situations, such as the one concerning the flight to Cuba undertaken by the infiltrator Juan Pablo Roque (Wagner Moura).
Another debatable card -which for a Cuban spectator has nothing revealing about it- is the surprise factor that is intended to impregnate the infiltrators in Miami. It first, it makes them appear as traitors who escape from the Island and later, in their real function, a double game devoid of the dramatic force that, it is guessed, was among the director’s goals.
The Wasp Network is focused on the stories concerning René González (Édgar Ramírez) and his wife Olga Salanueva (Penélope Cruz, in an excellent performance).
Also the afore-mentioned Roque and the wife who is sought in Miami (Ana de Armas), each couple with their very particular love-political conflicts and was carried with considerable ease in the plot. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Gerardo Hernandez, leader of the group. It would be necessary to see the opinions that the real characters have regarding their characterizations.
The film efficiently reconstructs the terrorist attacks against tourist facilities, shows the maximum faces of the counterrevolutionary exiles and resorts to excerpts from the archives as a reminder that everything that counts comes from reality. This is how President Clinton and Fidel appear separately, towards the end, during an interview with an American journalist. Fidel is conclusive about the right of the most spied country in the world, Cuba, to know what the enemies are doing on U.S. soil to attack the Cuban people.
In the documentary a concept similar to Goebbels is clear: the masses don’t go to the movies to be taught, but to evade reality, hence the imperative to create artificial nirvanas for them. They didn’t even disguise their intention
Author: Rolando Pérez Betancourt | email@example.com
November 19, 2019 20:11:08
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Although the Nazi cinematography gave a great deal of expression to its ideology, and did not spare any resources to do so, it also produced “escapist” stories – comedies, musicals, melodramas, police – aimed at distracting the attention of an audience trapped in a turbulent time.
Taken in numerical terms, it could be said that that duality in production was 50/50, according to the documentary Hitler’s Hollywood (2017), which forms part of a trilogy by the essayist Rüdiger Suchsland, aimed at examining the cinema of the Third Reich, close to a thousand films made between 1933-1945 under what was intended to be a “dream factory” in the best style of Nazi Germany.
Suchsland undertakes a methodical analysis -social, political and aesthetic- marked by objectivity and contention, without diatribes against films that would have deserved it for their racist and xenophobic approaches, a cinema that liked to proclaim that it would last a thousand years, and elaborated an ideological imaginary full of stereotypes against the ancestral values of humanity.
The exhibition of part of this work, which had its highest star in Hitler, has been forbidden in Germany and permissions are needed to project it as study material, therefore, it remains unpublished for the new generations, eager to know what was really that cinematographic gear marked by an insane policy.
Suchsland’s documentary brings us closer to the days when Nazi cinema put the greatest effort into the technical quality of its productions, trying to create its own “art” and compete with Hollywood, which it had no qualms about adapting, according to a scale of values that since the 1930s had been traced by the ideologists of Nazism (in that way, the artificial “American way of life”, distilled by American films, was finding its German equivalent in amelcochado films that glorified Nazi patriotism and sang praises to the times to come after the triumph of Nazism).
Although Hitler was known to like cinema, especially Disney’s work, the responsibility for driving the industry fell on Goebbels, with a culture fostered at universities in Bonn and Berlin. Appointed Minister of Propaganda and Information in 1933, one of his main tasks was to use schools and the media to turn Hitler into a god destined to dominate the world. And there is nothing better for it than cinema.
Goebbels tried to have a Nazi Potemkim filmed for him. He also forbade a German version of Titanic from reaching the screens at the last minute in 1943, when the battle of Stalingrad turned the war upside down. The film could be interpreted as a metaphor for Germany sinking and overnight its director Helbert Sepin, who had left half a skin on the set, was [deemed] suspicious to the Gestapo and without trial or argument ended up on the gallows.
Willing to impress the world with his cinema, which, in terms of pace of production, came in second place behind Hollywood, Goebbel spared no money (or pressure) to ensure the permanence in the country of directors and stars. In the early days, he tried to overcome California’s Mecca internationally, forcing him not to touch on harsh subjects, not even to make horror films that could be “misinterpreted”.
Not a few of these films show the overflowing joy of the German people, a supposed enthusiasm embodied in comedies and musicals, and there is no lack of the technically brilliant (and repudiable in their content) documentaries by Leni Riefenstahl, an innovator with the camera who exalted the myth of the Aryan race to the point of exhaustion.
In Hitler’s Hollywood, a concept similar to Goebbels is clear: the masses do not go to the cinema to be taught, but to evade a reality, hence the imperative of creating artificial nirvanas for them. They didn’t even disguise their intentions and in this respect the narrator of the documentary says: “in general, Nazi cinema was thought to abolish all distinction between reality and fantasy”.
The truth is that by separating those films from marked ideological political propaganda, what remains is an entertainment cinema not very different from the one we see today. Director Rüdiger Suchsland says: “The entertainment industry has always had the function of controlling people. Even in democracies. It can be argued that, thanks to the internet and the almost total digitalisation of society, we are in a new stage of control and manipulation, and that the entertainment industry is less and less focused on developing free minds and illuminating them. That’s what I sometimes think, but I also believe that conspiracy theories and cultural pessimism are a serious danger to democracy. They’re there to make us feel powerless.
A thesis that links Nazi cinema to the present and that is not new. The essayist Siegfred Krakauer, in his great work From Caligari to Hitler (1947) revealed that the dominant psychological tendencies in that cinema “could be profitably extended to the study of the masses, both in the United States of America and in other countries”.
It is well known that when the Nazi empire disappeared, the American cinematographic expansion ended up taking over most of the world’s screens and today only one dream factory remains.
From April 29 to June 10, a hundred images of Agnes Varda can be seen by Cubans at the National Museum of Fine Arts in an exhibition that accompanies the 20th French Film Festival in Cuba. French Film Festival in Cuba
Author: Pedro de la Hoz | firstname.lastname@example.org
April 26, 2017 21:04:16
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Agnes Varda arrived in Havana in the last weeks of 1962. She did not shrink from the recent events that had kept the world on edge, with the Island at the center of one of the most critical episodes of the Cold War, the missile crisis and the danger of nuclear war.
Shortly before, she married Jacques Demy, in his second marriage. He was two years away from becoming a famous filmmaker with the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. She, of Belgian origin but French by adoption, had debuted on the big screen with the film La Pointe Courte in 1954, which dealt with the relationships of a couple in a fishing village from which she took the name of the work, and appeared as one of the most disturbing personalities of the so-called nouvelle vague (new wave) since the 1961 release of Cleo de 5 a 7, a sensitive reflection on the boundaries between life and death.
Since she traveled without a film crew, Varda chose to record reality with a small Leica camera and ordinary black-and-white film. She wanted to know what was happening in the streets of the city, among people she loved, laughed, danced, and did not stop to philosophize amid challenges and tensions arising from a revolution threatened by a powerful neighbor.
She was not an improvised photographer. In the early 1950s, after studying Art History, she worked as such for none other than the National Popular Theatre of Paris, directed by Jean Vilar.
But the idea of portraying Cubans did not mean for her to return to the field of photography, but to use the images in a film. In February 1963, she revealed her purpose in an interview published in La Gaceta de la Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba: “I’ve been struck by how much people move and how they move, and I want to give you an idea about that. But I am going to express it with an opposite procedure: by means of fixed photos, which I will then animate based on the intermediate movements. Thus was born Saludos, cubanos (Salut les Cubains), which premiered in 1964.
In the winter of 2015, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris asked the mythical filmmaker – at that time she was revered for La felicidad (1965), Daguerrotipos (1975), Sin techo ni ley (1985, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival) and Jacquot de Nantes (1991) and had just become the first woman to be awarded the Palme d’Honneur in Cannes – to collect the Havana photos for the first time.
She thought that the curatorship would opt for other images, for example, according to her words “a portrait of Salvador Dalí, another of Eugene Ionesco or things from the Europe of the 50s and 60s, considering that Cuban photographs were never conceived to be exhibited”.
Varda/Cuba was a rediscovery. There were Fidel Castro, smiling despite the fact that when the photographer found him she asked him not to smile; those who had learned to read from the 1961 national literacy campaign who later decided to train as teachers, cane cutter volunteers, teenage loves, and children’s games.
That’s where the great Benny Moré appeared, with his unbeatable singer’s stamp even when he knew he had been wounded to death, and a very young Sara Gómez, dancing a cha cha chá dressed as a militia member for the days when she dreamed of being the first Cuban filmmaker.
From Saturday, April 29 to June 10, Cubans can see a hundred of Varda’s images. The National Museum of Fine Arts will display them in an exhibition that accompanies the 20th French Film Festival in Cuba.
Some will succumb to nostalgia. Others will not, because they will see in that graphic testimony, more than an unrepeatable moment, the trace of what was carved in time, of a resistant spirit.
Published on Jan 28, 2016
Agnes Varda’s Benny More video.
By Julio Martinez Molina
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann
British comedian Ricky Gervais says that “comedy is that moment when the mind tickles itself”. My mind which at this point –after so much limp and conventional boring comedy– has forgotten about tickling was however exulted and rolled with laughter when I saw a model of the genre like New Zealand’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I’ve owed this post to that film since I saw it two years ago; and since then I have not seen any other movie of my once beloved genre with so much comic efficacy.
The film fulfills, and surpasses the cardinal objective of the genre recognized by Chaplin himself: to entertain and make people laugh. His formula, not new, operates perfectly here: a plot whose dramaturgical thread and whose cause-and-effect sense have organic purpose in the structure of situations –logically overlapped and sustained—are conducive to hilariousness. The timing and duration of the gags are perfect. Most dialogues, the precise and semi-invisible emotive handling of the characters/actors function without failure. This is all a result of the good work in the characterization and direction of the actors and the empathy arising from their interaction. The recipe never failed: from [Ernst] Lubitsch and [Billy] Wilder to the first Farrelly.
However, in truth, this film by director Taika Waititi, bears little relation to that kind of cinema in other aspects. The geographical context and the tone used represent the adaptation of the best concepts of those masters to the peculiar expressive coordinates and appetites of the comedy. These confer a very rare injection of weirdness to the essence of a genre that is blown up from within by means of the most gentle dynamite cartridge in the universe. It unleashes a strong implosion of endorphins coated with affection, tenderness and the resulting joie de vivre. But, beware, this is nothing like a “feel good movie”, or the commonplace “funny” story. With this film we thank life, without restrictions or double intentions. It does not feel the need to say anything fashionable for others to applaud. Perhaps, it is in the deep and timeless simplicity of its statements that lies part of its charm.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople makes you roll [on the floor] with delightful laughter from beginning to end. It finds in its main character –teenager Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison)– its best hilarious asset. This chubby, rebel, gang-hip-hop lover, who must march, wander, and run for his life, through the intricate forests of the New Zealand archipelago, is perfectly drawn as a character. The actor who plays the role –I can’t think of any other like him to do it– depicts him with colors full of endearing and overflowing sympathy.
When the spectator does not want a comedy to end, it has done its duty. With Hunt for the Wilderpeople one feels this desire, which is currently in a state of extinction after the poor state of the genre. Good comedies are nowadays isolated exceptions that usually come from emerging cinema industries (like this one), but which are unfortunately made invisible (like this one too) by the world film distribution apparatus.
*Julio Martinez Molina: Film Critic, member of the Cuban Association of the Cinematographic Press and of the UNEAC. Author of the books published on film criticism: “North America and the Cinema of the End of the Century”, Sources and Influences of Contemporary Cinema” and “Haikus of My Filmic Emotion.
By Francisco Rodriguez Cruz
November 19, 2017.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I’m not going to try to do a review or evaluation of Lizette Vila and Ingrid León’s documentary, because I’d be a judge and a party, and that would be very ugly. Even more so when I’m still under the impression of the apotheosis of the premiere that Soy papá had this Saturday, November 18th… anyway, in a Yara cinema at full capacity, which forced me to offer a double performance.
I just wanted to thank you for the gift, which was great, for my son, my partner and me, that we were able to enjoy it also among so many good and friendly people. I barely recover, though, from the shock of seeing my face – what a horror! – on the big screen.
I also self-critically admit that I underestimated the impact of this bringing to life of the Palomas Project.
A little more than 30 minutes with the biographical shreds of a dozen or so men, I never thought they would attract so much kind and even overwhelming attention from a wide and diverse audience.
Personally, what I liked the most was to know the other stories of this choral interview – moving at times, sometimes hilarious, always authentic, by what they show, and even more, by what one can guess behind each testimony.
It was nice, but undeserved to be able to share the stage with such great parents at the end of the screening, and to receive with them, their families and my son Javier, the solidarity and affection that the audience lavished on us with an applause that I interpret as a recognition, not individual, but collective, for all the parents.
Because beyond the explicit purposes that link it with international campaigns and just social causes, this audiovisual is ultimately a claim to paternity, the best balance of which is not melodrama -which there is, there was no lack of it, we speak of Lizette Vila – but the natural force of a joy, accomplishment or pride that is difficult to explain, but easy to perceive even in her saddest or most heartbreaking stories.
Because, beyond the explicit purposes that link it with international campaigns and just social causes, this audiovisual is ultimately a claim to paternity. The best balance of this is not melodrama -which there is, there was no lack of it, we speak of Lizette Vila – but the natural force of a joy, accomplishment or pride that is difficult to explain, but easy to perceive even in her saddest or most heartbreaking stories.lk;
Another great success was its projection on the eve of November 19, 2017, International Men’s Day, a celebration that has existed since the 1990s, but we rarely remember it.
without forgetting variables such as sexual orientation and gender identity, as they include other male perspectives that the traditional notion of manhood usually tries to ignore, silence or at least diminish, disguise.
Another great success was its projection on the eve of 19 November 2017, International Men’s Day, a celebration that has existed since the 1990s, but we rarely remember it.
I am therefore pleased to be part of this thoughtful, disturbing and problematic tribute to the most intense and enriching human experience I know: being a father.Juan Nodarse Ramos
Thank you, Ingrid; thank you, Lizette.
Hollywood to Film anti-Cuban Mafia Terrorist Action Movie in Miami
By Arthur González
Posted by Virgilio PONCE on April 4, 2018 at 11:07am
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The truth always finds a way, even if it takes time, and now Hollywood has agreed to bring to the big screen the story of some of the terrorist actions carried out by the anti-Cuban terrorist mafia of Miami, which the Cuban people have denounced so much.
The totality of the denunciations of these terrorist actions against Cuba will have to wait for Hollywood to decide to count them, since many of its perpetrators still live peacefully in the United States, supported by renowned Congressmen such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart, Bob Menéndez, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and others.
The film, based on the recent book entitled The Corporation, attempts to recount the events of 30 years, carried out by Cuban mafia members. All have the status of “political refugees” granted by the US authorities, although in the book they are classified as “real adventures”, avoiding calling them “terrorist acts” in order not to seek conflict with those most responsible for these plans.
This mafia was formed, trained and financed by the CIA to act in Cuba against the Revolution. Many of its members were part of the mercenary Brigade  that invaded the island in 1961. After being released by the Cuban government, they returned to the United States, training for terrorist acts, where the struggle over money and political power brought a war between them.
The Corporation, tells part of the life of a single group of these Cuban “political refugees”, led by José Miguel Battle, mercenary of the Bay of Pigs invasion. He became the boss of illegal gambling and drugs, from Miami to New York, something that still happens in the underworld of these anti-Cubans, many of whom amass powerful fortunes with which they support politicians of Cuban and American origin.
José Miguel Battle, is one of hundreds of henchmen of the dictator Fulgencio Batista, who managed to escape revolutionary justice and found support and safe haven from the U.S. authorities. They refused to comply with the extradition agreement signed with Cuba and in force until 1961, despite the official demand that Cuban authorities made for years.
Murderers, torturers and former members of the dictator Batista’s repressive bodies, such as Battle, make up this mafia half-described in the book. This is because there are others, not mentioned in the book, despite the volume of crime they committed. These include Rafael Díaz-Balart, former interior minister, also a refugee in Miami; Rolando Masferrer, chief assassin of a paramilitary body known as Los Tigres; Colonel Esteban Ventura, murderer of hundreds of young people; Conrado Carratalá Ugalde, former head of the Department of the Batista Police Department; Luis Alberto del Rio Chaviano, Brigadier General of the Batista army; Colonels Orlando Piedra Negueruela, Mariano Faget Díaz and Rafael M. A. Gutiérrez Martínez; Pilar Danilo García y García, Brigadier General, chief of the tyrant’s police force; Lieutenant Colonel Irenaldo Remigio García Báez, former head of Batista’s Military Intelligence Service.
Nor does the text tell of Operation Condor, carried out by the CIA in Latin America. In it, many of these Cuban mafiosi took charge of murdering and torturing thousands of young people. Others include the terrorist acts suffered by the Cuban people at the hands of CIA agents, such as Carlos Alberto Montaner, who was arrested and punished for placing an incendiary flask in a shopping mall in Havana, escaped from prison and is now a refugee in Havana.
Likewise, they omit to mention the multiple murderer Luis Posada Carriles, a “political refugee” in Miami despite being the confessed author of the bombing of a Cuban civilian plane in mid-flight, where 73 innocent people died.
The terrorist acts planned and carried out by dozens of counterrevolutionary organizations financed by the CIA, such as the Comandos L, Alpha 66 and Omega 7, would need a series with many seasons for the world to know the truth about why Cuba has been denouncing them for 60 years.
Thousands were killed and assassinated by these mafiosi, including Cuban diplomats, the detonation of bombs in Cuban embassies, consulates and commercial offices abroad, dynamited ships, the introduction of pathogenic germs to sicken people, animals and the flora of the island, and many more crimes.
The Corporation is a tiny part of the history of this anti-Cuban mafia, all with the status of “political refugees”, thanks to the subversive manipulation of U.S. immigration policy against Cuba, due to, in the first place, the Cuban Adjustment Act.
The accounts of daylight shootings in the streets of Little Havana and the successful blows celebrated with parties where they gave away bags of cocaine. These are almost child’s play compared to the murky actions of that mafia, such as placing a bomb beneath the seat of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC, where he, his wife and the driver were blown to pieces.
Its authors, including Guillermo Novo Sampol, live peacefully in Miami as “political refugees”, thanks to the efforts of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The book, although it does not cover all the terrorist actions, is a sample of those who are those murderers whom the United States welcomed as “refugees”, hiding the truth from its citizens who, with part of their taxes, have kept that rascal that forms part of the evil called “Cuban exile”.
That’s why we remember José Martí when he said:
“He smiles at the appearance of truth.”
Arthur González, Cuban, specialist in Cuba-U.S. relations, editor of the El Heraldo Cubano blog.
Translated and Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Buenos Aires, Oct 20 (Prensa Latina) He was 81 years old but for those who knew him up close, he had a young, cheerful heart and an enviable capacity for work, today the Argentineans say goodbye to one of their greatest actors, the great Federico Luppi .
Although he had been hospitalized several days ago due to a health problem that had been dragging on since his head was hit last April, the news has had an impact on the cultural media of the country and especially those Argentines who lived and dreamed of their actions.
Luppi, Time of Revenge, Labyrinth of the Faun, Common Places, Martin Hache, Cronos and many other films, died this morning at the Favaloro Foundation, where he remained hospitalized waiting for a transfer to another clinic to start a rehabilitation process.
The blow to his head produced a cerebral clot while he worked. In just six months his life went out but not the indelible mark left in Latin American and international cinema in more than 70 films, many of them multi-award winning. ‘Never’, he said sharply when one or another journalist asked him if he planned to retire one day and he kept his word, because despite his health complications, he was about to start a theatrical tour with the piece Las ultunas lunas, a play about old age, directed by his wife Susana Hornos.
On Twitter, messages weep over Luppi. He died a big figure, perhaps the most repeated word to say farewell to this actor, considered one of the most versatile interpreters of his generation.
Some pay homage with photographs and eternal thanks, others publish some of the most memorable scenes of their performances to recall it.
‘I am happy to be alive at this age, to have done so many things in Argentina and still be able to recount them. And I would like, yes, in slightly fantastical terms, to descend slowly through the dark side of the moon, but with dignity,” said this cinematic icon, who left for eternity today.
rc / may
The investigations of Leonardo Padura’s detective are in audiovisual form now. Jorge Perugorria plays the detective who investigates a series of crimes in a colorful and decadent Cuba
The script of the series is based on four novels by the Cuban author.
FOUR SEASONS IN HAVANA, by NETFLIX
By Federico Lisical
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
“I decided to make a character who was in conflict with the reality he was living,” Leonardo Padura once told this newspaper. The Cuban writer was referring to Mario Conde, the officer who was the main character ofj his police novels and who now centers the NETFLIX miniseries Four Seasons in Havana (that since last Friday can be seen online). The series is based on stories in Padura´s four novels: Past Perfect, Winds of Lent, Masks, and Autumn Landscape.
This disenchanted but noble man, who does not seem to be a police lieutenant and has a great love for books, is interpreted by Jorge Perugorría. Almost to his regret, the best thing he knows how to do is solve mysteries and write up his wanderings with a typewriter. “There is no one better than Mario Conde to get into Havana, rummage through its darkness, and draw some light. That special insight the detective has, is particularly revealing. What I wanted to do was to make a kind of chronicle, a testimony of what recent Cuban life has been like. In each of his investigations, he reveals a sector of Cuban society, but also the humanity of a number of characters who live that reality day-to-day,” said the writer in another interview.
In total there are four episodes, ninety minutes each. They were directed by the Spaniard Felix Bizcarte, and the role of Padura himself in the adaptation was key, as well as that of his wife Lucia López Coll. Their intention was to preserve the tone of the novels and let the Cuban reality filter in naturally. What is the resulting Havana? One that shows its darkest and most sinful side. There is corruption, traffickers of all kinds –of drugs and influence– has been but there is also the dream of what the revolution could have been. Conde is a romantic who goes around throwing phrases for whoever wants to listen: “Havana has fallen so much that is has gone to shit”; “Cops investigating cops… What the hell is going on?”
The context is crucial as the books were published between 1991 and 1998 and reflected what was happening on the island after the end of the Cold War, the tightening of the embargo, and the regime’s opposite sides. As the author said, “… I learned from Hammett, Chandler, Vázquez Montalbán and Sciascia that a police novel can have a real relationship with the country’s environment; that it can denounce or touch concrete facts and not just imaginary realities.” “El Conde” moves about the capital of Cuba as a Philip Marlowe who suffers the heat, and fights his destiny, “doing what I have to do, but never what I really want to do.” The big difference with the iconic detective of suburban Los Angeles is that Conde is a cop. “It was totally unrealistic to have someone who was not a police officer investigate a crime in Cuba, especially if it was a murder,” Padura explained. But Conde also dreams of being a writer and that is what saves him.
This jaded subject is summoned to investigate the murder of a high school teacher while he is also looking into another case that has to do with his own past. In all of these there are several criminal associations. As in every noir police story, in addition to the investigations there are institutions tainted with indolence, elites complicit with business interests, femmes fatale, jazz music and seedy bars. Its main character is a researcher of the shadows but with a complex humanity and far from clichés. “Conde represents a generation of Cubans who believed in a country project that will never be, and feeds heavily on nostalgia. He’s a fucking nostalgic, as he defines himself, “said the actor who has the role.
The photography (by Spaniard Pedro J. Márquez) is one of the highest points of the production. The tone is twilight and oblivious to any “for export” intention. The rundown houses of the old quarters convey the stupor of the characters; and the danger in a harbor city when the sun goes down. The scenes of violence are given in unusual settings that can capture the audiences. In short, there are four genre stories within a very unique context that reflects the day-to-day life of the Caribbean city and its surroundings. One can easily perceive how the characters are linked: their body language, how they breathe and perspire, their unrefined speech that mispronounces sounds, how their food smells, and how they have sex. Four Seasons in Havana is, above all, a sensory experience. “Noir was never so colorful,” said one of the promotions for the miniseries; but it may be exactly the other way around.
by Yunier Javier Sifonte Díaz
June 17, 2017
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The Handmaid’s Tale is perhaps one of the most disturbing TV series of recent times. Provocative in extreme, incisive in its questionings and with a crudity without limits, this production investigates in sensitive areas of the human species and speaks without fear about oppression and the loss of freedom. Fear, corporal punishment and rape, which has become a ritual, coexist with an extraordinary screenplay and attract the applause of the specialized critics, but also the attention of those who wonder where reality ends and fiction begins.
Based on the novel of the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, the series looks to the near future where environmental pollution has left most women in the United States sterile. Faced with the situation, a radical group seizes power, assassinates the President, annuls the Constitution and implements the Republic of Gilead. In the new society, profoundly fundamentalist and puritanical, most modern values disappear, women lose all their rights and those who can still breed offspring only matter as an object destined to give children to the wealthiest families.
From here, females can only aspire to few roles: a few are the infertile wives of the nation’s leaders, but the rest fulfill functions as maids destined for the repopulation of the country, domestic employees or prisoners sentenced to die while cleaning the areas damaged by the radiation. However, none has the right to read, think or express her views, because, even with the ancestry of ladies or sexual slaves make up that lower group causing the misfortunes of the nation. Among them lives the servant Offred, whose name hardly represents another sign of submission. If she belongs to Commander Fred then she should be named like him.
This is one of the great successes of the series: the narrative from all possible spaces, with a deep symbolism and a precise structuring of dialogues. From the immutable red dress of the maidservants – joyful to fecundity, but also to blood and pain – through their pre-established attitudes, gestures and conversations, to the cap to restrict their vision of a world they no longer know, everything works to annul their individuality and turn them into standardized subjects.
With different levels of reading and interpretation, for some, The Handmaid’s Tale means a defense of feminism, while for others it represents a good way to reflect on systems of government such as that implemented by the Islamic State or against the rise of neo-fascist or extreme right-wing tendencies in some countries of the planet. At the thematic level, the series does not address current issues such as women’s reification, harassment of homosexuals, ablation [female genital mutilation] or ethical discussions about abortion.
Supported by a millimeter of perfection and an extraordinary passion for detail, director Reed Morano uses whatever element she believes necessary to retrace the path of this deeply misogynistic and inhuman society, to show the harshness of the moment and the anguish of some female characters almost always on the brink of the abyss. Both the careful photography of bluish or ochre tones, as well as the commitment to intimacy in scenes, the punctual use of the soundtrack and the optimal use of some very first shots of Offred’s face -performed masterfully by Elisabeth Moss-, contribute to closing spaces and placing the spectator right in the centre of this asphyxiating drama.
To this end, this maid has two voices, one submissive and fearful and the other known only to the spectator: rebellious, sarcastic, always pungent in the face of the regime’s exaggerations. Narrated by the protagonist from recurrent flashbacks and internal dialogues, the decomposition of society and its silent conversion in the Republic of Gilead appears on screen. “Now I’m awake and I see the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they massacred Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed the terrorists and annulled the Constitution, we did not wake up either. They said it would be temporary, but nothing changes at all,” recalls Offred to explain how the country arrived in the current state of affairs.
However, these reflections articulate a discourse more anchored to reality and raise questions that are essential for the debate of these times. Does conquering certain universal values such as freedom, democracy and human dignity mean giving up fighting for them? What subsists beneath xenophobia, intolerance, extreme individualism and attempts to construct apolitical or banal subjects?
“Blessed are the meek,” they constantly remind the maids in the centers in charge of training them for their new function, as if eliminating any kind of active posture and making conformism a virtue were an essential objective to achieve domination. And in fact, it is, because the oppression that exists here is not only physical, but also psychological, intellectual and cultural, the only way to dismember a society as a whole.
With seven of the ten chapters of the first season already released and the guarantee of at least one second, The Handmaid’s Tale transcends its exceptional technical skills and its fine adaptation of a classic Canadian literature, but also because it uninhibitedly discusses universal themes such as ideology, morality, humanism, politics and totalitarian and extremist systems. Even without claiming to be a prophetic or apocalyptic work, it has the merit of evading complacent positions and touching sharp areas of a model who likes to see itself as perfect. Responding to the provocations of this series with intelligence and analysis, confronting it without complexes and willing to its art, but also to the debate and questioning, would be good ways to live this story only as fiction.