“Hello Charlie, I am Charly …: would you give me an interview? ”
That was what I blurted out at Cuban producer Charlie Medina when I recognized him, long-haired and without shaving, in the patio of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba: I asked him a few minutes of his time and he spoke for half an hour with OnCuba on Penumbras, his debut work as a film director.
The first cinematographic adventure of Medina was seen with mistrust by certain purists who distrusted a project filmed in 20 days with the theater people and the television, but the response of the public and the critique was of recognition to his skills as an audio-visual producer.
Critics noted he got into the spotlight and that matters for Medina: the suspicious silence or indifference worry him. He also dislike critics just for the sake of it; the “acid” voices that lash without researching, disrespectfully, with disrespectful attacks, barely ethical and very dumb…
“I believe that critics should risk more, to know the interiorities of the processes, although the critic, like the public, is going to judge results, and you can’t spend all the time justifying or explaining yourself. But many people only see the negative side”, he noted.
The feedback with the spectators has been, according to his words, “very interesting”. From the premiere two months ago in the Chaplin movie theater, people have crowded Havana´s theaters to watch Penumbras and it is one of five Cuban movies that are competing in the 34 International Festival of the New Latin-American Cinema.
He feels that the movie has reached the public very well, despite lacking big dramatic events, being minimal and in black and white, something that he conceived before the French movie The Artist unleashed a frenzy worldwide of shooting without other colors.
“I never visualized Penumbras in color. It looks to me like a very hard, closed, hermetic, dirty story in the best sense of the word, and the scale of grey allowed me to tell this story better”, Medina, who faced this project as any other previous one, assured.
“I made Penumbras exactly as I make all my films for TV. I think and make each one of them according to my purposes or to what the script itself demands. Certainly, the cinema demands more quiet processes. I construct one fiction unit for the television in 10 days, and a movie is not shot in less than 30 or 40, although I did Penumbras in scarcely 20.”
“It was a silly thing, but apparently it worked”, he added.
Perhaps he got some help from the technology (he filmed with Canon 5D, Full HD, 5.1 surround and Blue Ray support), or from the generosity of his producer (RTV Commercial), or perhaps the limited cast, scarcely four actors that he could guide better thanks to his formation as professional actor in the Higher Institute of Arts.
On this matter, he thought that the work with the actors is the one subject young Cuban producers of cinema and television need to address: they are rarely seen in theaters, where they can find talented people that work on everyday basis.
“Theater trains, it is done every day. You can work in aa soap opera, become famous and then spend the next 10 years without doing anything,” Medina says, who bet on figures with long theater experience, such as Omar Franco and Ysmerci Salomón, leading characters in this movie along with Tomás Cao and Omar Alí. On Franco he said that he was “ the only actor in Cuba capable of doing the character of Pepe ”, and warned that Ysmerci “ is going to become a very important actress in movies to come”.
Out of the four, perhaps Omar Alí is the most famous for his roles in the television, but this time he embodied a character different from the habitual ones, becomes repulsive, and because of that, effective. “I like actors that go beyond the traditional performances. For example, Ysmerci has a very attractively and hardly common voice”, he said.
Sordid movie, capable of discouraging and of returning hope, Penumbras speaks about the struggle of a man with his addictions and passions, about a ballerina for his love, about a baseball player against the time, about an innkeeper for surviving …
Charlie Medina also has his own struggle, to be faithful to his addiction to life and to the making of audio-visual products, without prejudices or labels. Though, out of the record, Charlie confessed to Charly that his new title doesn’t trouble him very much: film and television director.