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Film Critic: A ‘7 Days in Havana’ vacation

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Aug. 30, 2012, 9:45 p.m. | Movies — by Svitlana Tuchynska

Watching “7 Days in Havana,” the film which made it to Kyiv cinemas in August, is like taking a vacation – the one when you get away to an exotic island and dive in the laid back local pace, absorbing the life around you.
© www.7daysinhavana.com

Svitlana Tuchynska

Watching “7 Days in Havana,” the film which made it to Kyiv cinemas in August, is like taking a vacation – the one when you get away to an exotic island and dive in the laid back local pace, absorbing the life around you.

The film is filled with the stunning views of the sea, beautiful local music and the warmth of pubs filled with singing, dancing, fumes of Cuban cigars and flows of rum. It will give you the taste of another, dark side of Havana, too – with prostitution and poverty that most Cubans live in. 

The film is made up of the seven separate stories, each courtesy of a different director, including Julio Medem, Laurent Cantet, Juan Carlos Tabío, Benicio del Toro, Gaspar Noe, Pablo Trapero and Elia Suleiman. For this array of styles and stories critics have called the film “woefully inconsistent.” But there is a certain charm in that.

The first episode brings you to Havana with a U.S. tourist called Teddy, who, like many visitors, is desperate for clubbing, drinking and picking up girls. Teddy’s hopes for fun are dashed as the girl he finally manages to get into his hotel room turns out to be a transvestite.

In the second episode you are following the prominent Serbian director Emir Kusturica, who plays himself, as he arrives to Havana to receive an award at the local film festival. Amid floods of rum and arguments with his wife over the phone, Kusturica leaves the choky festival’s party for a gasp of fresh air. His driver, a Cuban, takes him to his friends’ get together, where locals play the night away, making some lovely music. 

Any tale of Havana would not be complete without the mention of Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro. As a character from Palestine nicknamed ES arrives in Havana to interview an unnamed prominent Cuban in another episode, he spends hours killing time in his hotel room, for hours listening to Castro’s famously long speeches on TV.

As the leader of Cuban revolution boasts about “heroism of Cuban people” who “stand up to the world capitalism” the sights outside ES’s hotel are strikingly different, with quiet melancholia around, only brightened up by the prostitutes dancing with tourists on the beach to the car radio.  

Apart from the daily life in Havana, we get a glimpse of local voodoo rituals, as parents of young girl Yamilslaidi, another episode’s heroine, subject her to a “cleansing” procedure hoping it will cure her from liking other girls.

Cecilia, the heroine of the next episode is a singer in a club, desperate for a better future for herself and her baseball player husband. After much discussion and fights they decide to flee, getting on a boat at night that would take them to the ship, heading to US shores. 

Another episode shows a day in the life of Cecilia’s parents, as their daughter is coming to see them for the last time. Her mother, a doctor, also takes up extra odd jobs, like making sweets, to make ends meet.

Despite the hardships, locals are able to take things philosophically, enjoy a life that is not built around materialistic things. The last episode brings us to an extended family, whose matriarch Martha one morning gets obsessed with the idea of building a fountain in their apartment for the Virgin Mary statue.

Lack of funds and other troubles do not stand in the way. The project is completed in just one day and the whole family and friends get together for celebration, songs and dancing.

As the picture on screen goes off, you have a feeling of knowing Havana and its dwellers already. What left is the urge to actually go there someday, to see the whole thing uncut.

Kinopanorama,
Shota Rustaveli St., 19.
Aug. 30-31 – 11:00, 15:00, 19:00. Hr 15-40
Sept. 1 – 12:40, 16:40, 20:40. Hr 15-40
Sept. 2-5 – 11:00, 15:00, 19:00. Hr 15-40

Kyiv Post staff writer Svitlana Tuchynska can be reached at tuchynska@kyivpost.com

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