Dean Luis Reyes

Dean Luis Reyes

Carlos Acosta poses during the presentation of Yuli, which is competing in the official section of the 66th edition of the San Sebastian International Film Festival. Photo: Juan Herrero / EFE.

Yuli: The return of the prodigal son

When Yuli is premiered in Cuba it will be a resounding success. The movie theater will be full of all kinds of catharsis. And applause. It already happened when it was screened during the Havana Film Festival last December. Because Yuli talks about pain. It is inevitable to indicate the bittersweet feeling left by this island version of A Star is Born. Based on the real story of dancer Carlos Acosta, with a script that is a version of his own autobiography (No Way Home), Iciar Bollaín's film is a sort of initiation story that involves a process of personal growth, professional success, overcoming of social class and resistance to racial prejudices. By the way, the issue of racialism is decisive. Paul Laverty, its scriptwriter, whose affiliation with political issues and class visions is well-known (especially because of his long-standing collaboration with Kean Loach), stressed it as much as he could in his adaptation of those memoirs. Because the drama - almost the tragedy - of Acosta is having been an exceptional black dancer in a school like that of the National Ballet, whose racial prejudices are an overt secret. The slave ancestors’ suffering, which Laverty uses for the context...

Shooting of “Sergio and Sergei.” Héctor Noas plays the role of a Russian cosmonaut. In the background to the left Ernesto Daranas, the film’s director.

“Sergio and Sergei” as global format

  The first thing spectators see when they go to see Sergio and Sergei (2017) is a screen that reads: Mediapro. Further on, RTV Comercial comes on. The first is, according to the firm’s page, “a leading group in the European audiovisual sector, the only one in the integration of audiovisual contents, production and distribution.” The second, the marketing enterprise of Cuban radio and television, which in recent years has been increasingly dedicating itself to the production of its own contents instead of only operating as a seller for the rest of the national entities. Both, together with institutions like ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinema Arts and Industry), are the producers of Ernesto Daranas’ new film. The previous detail does not suppose a prejudice. That Sergio and Sergei is a fruit of the contemporary cultural industry is barely a data. There is no problem in that, or with the marketing logic associated to a cultural product. Neither is this the case with the idea of a Cuban movie that originates (as most Cuban cinema since a while back) in the combination of transnational financial sources. The problem appears when this has an incidence on the resulting text. And it’s not...

A photo does the rounds of Havana

I bumped into this poster while walking along Línea Street: The image of the photo is unmistakable; it belongs to the country’s collective memory: the act of insulting the monument to Martí in Havana’s Central Park on the night of March 11, 1949. The U.S. marine climbing at the top is Richard Choinsgy. According to history he and his mates – Sergeant Herbert D. White and marine George J. Wagner – were monumentally drunk. They had just come out of Sloppy Joe’s Bar, barely two blocks from the place of the event, and they were furious. Choinsgy wanted to demonstrate his acrobatic skill by climbing the monument to the Apostle of Cuban Independence, from where he seasoned his feat greeting his colleagues and the growing amount of public gathering around the scene. He was forced to come down because of the bottles and stones people threw at him. A mob attacked them. Only the intervention by the police forces prevented the alleged lynching. The police officers had to whack the violent ones with their billy clubs and shoot into the air to take out the attacked unharmed and take them to the First Station of the National Police. The national...

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