Sunday, October 21, 2012

7 Días en La Habana (7 Days in Havana)

Seven shorts compilation about Havana that could have been more like a tourist bureau advert for Cuba if it was not for some shorts fabulous directors with great storytelling style. But to be fair, each of the seven shorts show different aspects of what life in Cuba could be or is right now.

I did not enjoyed all shorts but wasn't expecting to do so as the eclectic group of directors had one I'm not familiar with, one I dislike and the rest are extraordinary directors, storytellers and filmmakers in my book. So let's be brief and start with the ones I like.

Thursday - Dairy of a Beginner by Elia Suleiman

Absolutely fabulous but I am a huge Elia Suleiman fan that always goes crazy for his deadpan performances as Suleiman not only directs but also performs. Believe that in the surface story is about a foreigner that comes to Havana to interview a prominent Cuban figure and to kill time wanders around town; but to me short is a very spiced critique that imagine Cuban sensors did not get as film is included in collection.

Tuesday - Jam Session by Pablo Trapero

Again I'm truly surprised that Cuban sensors allowed this short to be in the compilation as while on the surface tells a very simple story about a well-known director travelling to Cuba to receive an award in a film festival, short message depth goes from awards disdain to show a bitter glimpse in the life of a musician. Then in always peculiar Trapero style short is great and realistic plus the well-known director role is played by none other than Emir Kusturica. In all shorts music plays a great role, but none like the one it plays here.

Sunday - La Fuente by Laurent Cantet

A very elegant tale considering the short theme as is about Santeria with an old woman dreaming Oshun asking for a celebration the same evening and the whole neighborhood helping to make it happen. Story is the excuse to show people ingenious ways to survive, which yes is also a surprise short is in compilation. Very interesting work that in my opinion shows Cantent's different filmmaking style while the storytelling style is absolutely his.

Friday - Ritual by Gaspar Noé

A more normal tale about Santeria darkish side portraying a "limpia" (cleaning) in a lesbian young girl as parents want to get the "devilish" lesbian tendencies away from her. Very dark cinematography that perfectly shows Gaspar Noé very peculiar great style.

Wednesday - La tentación de Cecilia by Julio Medem

In the most melodramatic Medem's style a tale about decisions to leave or leave not the island. Short has what I find not so great performance by Daniel Brühl (usually like his performances) probably due to him speaking Spanish. Not surprisingly this is the hotter short in the compilation. Short is entertaining but nothing more.

Saturday - Dulce Amargo by Juan Carlos Tabío

Not familiar with director but very familiar with Jorge Perugorría that always gives great performances and in here is not the exception. To me short has a style similar to Latin American soap operas, which I do not like but it is watchable as tells about life of what elsewhere could be called upper-middle class family while in Cuba is regular working class. Indirectly related to Santeria but you only know until you see the finished cake. With this short you notice that all short stories have a relationship.

Monday - El Yuma by Benicio del Toro

Don't enjoy Benicio del Toro acting or directing and this short is no exception as not only has the silliest story about how dumb Americans are in foreign lands but short style is truly awful. Ted Atkins performance is not that bad but definitively this story in the hands of a more accomplished director would have look and feel a lot better. Still, I know this is about the ONLY short that surely will be more understandable and enjoyable to general audiences.

As mentioned music is an important element in the shorts and worth mentioning that also cinematography is remarkable in some of the shorts. In general production values are good in all shorts.

Now I am thinking that maybe Cuban sensors have become more relaxed and are allowing out stories that show how life in Cuba, even if could seem hard for foreigners, is very normal/enjoyable for the island citizens. Yes, that's it... probably.

Nevertheless if you enjoy the work of many of the great directors included in this compilation I suggest you don't skip their shorts, but highly recommend you watch them in the compilation as there is a thin relationship between the shorts stories and the order each short is shown -which is not how I listed them here- has an intention. Film was screened in competition at Un Certain Regard section of 2012 Cannes Official Selection.


Watch trailer @MOC

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