North America take 3 – A Cuban, childrens’ take on Romeo and Juliet

Viva Cuba – Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti (2005)

It’s been a long week so I was thankful for this easy-viewing, cute, 80 minute Cuban children’s film. Although admittedly it wouldn’t have been my first choice, as for all my efforts I found it really difficult to find any films available online for this area. Having watched one film from Central America (with another one set up for next week) and one from the North, I felt I needed one from the Caribbean but that proved quite the task. Also, I didn’t realise quite how terrible my Geography was until I realised I hadn’t heard of half of the countries in North America, there’s one called Guadeloupe, who knew? Anyway, I really wanted to watch Fresa y Chocolate (also Cuban) but couldn’t find it anywhere so I ended up with this kids film. It was thoroughly enjoyable though, even if I did watch it in 480p on YouTube.

(I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles, sorry!)

The film’s plot it not far from the familiar tale of Romeo and Juliet. The two children, Malu and Jorgito, live opposite one another in the Regla area of the Cuban capital, Havana, and are best friends. However their families represent two different social classes, and Malu’s uper-class mother forbidding her to play with Jorgito anymore, calling their family “the most uneducated folk” emphasising that they’re “not like us”. The parents dismiss the close friendship between the two, not realising its strength. So when Malu’s mother, who expresses her exhaustion with the country, makes plans to leave with her to Cuba, Jorgito and Malu devise a plan to stop her. As in communist Cuba, they cannot leave the country without having their papers signed, which Malu’s father, who lives on the other side of the island (Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean), also needs to sign.

The two set off, with Malu’s mother’s piggy bank (containing 11 pesos) to Maisi, to stop Malu’s father from signing the papers. (Map below for reference).

viv

As the two children are travel across the island, they are chased by the authorities on multiple occasions, each time managing to escape yet each time leaving something behind. In order to predict their route and bring them home safely, the authorities encourage the two mothers to work together. After originally refusing, the emotions of the hunt for the children eventually forces them to communicate.

viva-cuba

The film shows the strength of childhood friendships, as the two go to extreme lengths to stay together, and even the worst of arguments only bring them closer. We see a romantic view of Cuba through their eyes, one that is not common on screen. The only real signs of the countries politics came in the form of; the schools morning routine, in which they salute to pioneers of communism every day, reciting an anthem-like speech about ‘valiant ones’, and the face of Che Guevara painted on the sides of buildings we pass along the way.

viva

The children are excellent in this, the acting seems very natural and enjoyable to watch, and we get to see things through their eyes in several scenes (e.g. moving the stars around in the sky whilst they’re on the beach) which is quite fun. Reminds me a lot of Moonrise Kingdom, but not as quirky and, well, Wes Anderson-y. Worth a watch.

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