Monday, February 27, 2006

Viva Cuba doesn't stand alone

Posted on Sun, Feb. 26, 2006

'Viva Cuba' doesn't stand alone

Although it may be the most controversial, Viva Cuba is not the only
film in the festival that deals with hot Cuban topics.

Filmmakers from Spain, The Netherlands and the United States also are
bringing movies and documentaries with historical and contemporary
storylines dealing with Cuban issues.

There's the premiere of Lost City, a production with a 1950s Havana
setting based on a script by the late novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante
and championed by Cuban-American Andy García, who directed and starred.

There's also a re-issue of the 1999 Buena Vista Social Club documentary,
part of a tribute to its German director, Wim Wenders.

Other highlights include:

• Una rosa de Francia (A Rose From France), perhaps the most anticipated
film from inside the island because it features two leading figures in
Cuban film, both of Oscar-nominated Strawberry and Chocolate fame --
screenwriter Senel Paz and actor Jorge Perugorría.

Filmed in Cuba by Spanish director Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón in
collaboration with the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), Una rosa de Francia
recreates 1930s Havana and a rum-smuggling operation to the United
States at the height of Prohibition.

• Benigno, Farewell to a Revolution is a documentary made by Marlou van
den Berge of The Netherlands about the life of Benigno, a former Cuban
guerrilla who fought alongside Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara and survived the
ambush in Bolivia that killed Guevara.

Now a refugee in Paris, he struggles with the language to get enough
work as a plasterer. Benigno's testimony of how ''Fidel fooled us,
betrayed us,'' is powerful and moving, given the simplicity and deep
sorrow with which he tells his story of going from idealist to exile.

He met Guevara and Fidel Castro when he was just 17 and they showed up
at his mountain cabin asking to buy his pig. Benigno and his young wife
roasted the pig and fed the rebels. Days later, Batista's army showed up
when Benigno was out, and no questions asked, shot up the cabin with his
wife inside.

Benigno joined the rebels, trained and fought with them, then rode
triumphantly into Havana in 1959.

His story was turned into a telenovela, which aired on Cuban state
television, and on the surface it seemed Benigno was part of the regime.
But, he says, he had become disenchanted with Castro, who ``betrayed all
the principles of justice we fought for.''

Benigno spent decades afraid of the tactics with which Castro ''got
rid'' of opponents and people ''who were shining more than he,'' like
Camilo Cienfuegos and Guevara.Benigno is no stranger to Miami. After he
was exiled in 1995, he stopped here and appeared several times on Cuban
talk shows.

Benigno is the Amsterdam-based filmmaker's first full-length
documentary, but she made two other documentaries on Cuba -- La vida es
así (Life is That Way) about musicians of La Vieja Trova and pianist
Ramón Valle, and also Surviving Cuba.

• Malas temporadas (Hard Times) is a Spanish film by renowned director
Manuel Martín Cuenca. It features a Cuban exile dreaming of Miami,
unable to accept his life in Madrid.

Carlos (played by Eman Xor Oña) makes a living selling smuggled Cuban
cigars, and, like all of the characters in the film, is going through a
rough period. A former pilot, he's trying to recover a valuable painting
and is having an affair with a friend's wife, who uses a wheelchair.

Cuenca, the director, is also known for the documentary on Cuban
baseball, El juego de Cuba, and was in Miami last year for the showing
of his award-winning film, La flaqueza del bolchevique, a visit he also
used to scout for Cuban actors here.

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