Intimate Stories for Footage

Once more Fernando Pérez is at the core of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema with his film Últimos días en La Habana

By: Alejandro A. Madorrán Durán

Email: digital@juventudrebelde.cu

2016-12-14 | 11:16:30 EST

December 13, 2016

With a solid career, expressed through the 2007 National Cinematography Award in recognition for his outstanding work, Fernando Pérez is once more at the core of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, the same event in which he won the Coral Prize as Best Debut Feature with the film Clandestinos. This year he is presenting Últimos días en La Habana, which he defines as a joyful drama.

The story revolves around two friends: Miguel (Patricio Wood) and Diego (Jorge Martínez), who live in a shantytown of Havana. The former, pessimistic and introverted, hopes to live in New York; while his friend AIDS stricken, attempts to face reality with optimism. An unexpected visa comes as a turning point revealing Miguel’s dreams, according to the review.

And that mystery is left to us by Fernando Pérez who was approached by a group of reporters in the 200th issue of the Cine Cubano magazine, which took place at Havana’s Fresa y Chocolate cultural center. The filmmaker gently accepted to tell us about the creative process of his latest film, which is competing with other 17 from Latin America.

Últimos días en La Habana is very simple and that was the most interesting of shooting the script Abel Rodríguez brought to me. It’s a story of friendship in a context which needs to be shown, since it is connected with people living in shantytowns, which I have depicted in other films.”

And when we think about Fernando’s films, and that dedication to reflect the everyday of people who have nothing to do with touristic postcards, remind us of Suite Habana, a film which hovers between fiction and documentary, which is aimed at retelling intimate stories of its actors and actresses.

Asked about the main differences between the two films, Fernando said that “from 2003, when Suite Havana was filmed to this day, the situation has changed a little and the characters of my latest film differ in that for their survival they make certain decisions which might be prejudicial for the viewers. Since it is also a film about prejudice.”

Both films involved a sociologic search, a preoccupation for the real problems of the everyday life. Combining those notions of objectivity –more recurred in the documentary- with the tricks of fiction can lead to contradictions.

But Fernando made his purpose clear. For that reason he delved into the need of having a context in tune with the environment Most of the film is set in Diego’s room, and little space is left to the city. And in that little space “I wanted to create interactions and spot features which in my opinion characterize that part of our reality, generally with less presence in our media, and almost always approached in a general manner.”

Along that line of social analysis, in Últimos días en La Habana, in addition to Diego and Miguel, there is a 15 year-old teenager qualified by Fernando as a young “rebel”.

“Yusisleydis represents that sector of our youth who has lost referents and, therefore, is guided by others closer to banality.”

“The problem results from the disorientation which is lived by many of them, who have not found the necessary human values because of the context of survival they are mired in. Although, somehow in those young people there is a deep sensitivity.”

After a long and careful audition Gabriela Ramos was the one selected to play that role with which she will make her debut on the big screen.

In this regard, the filmmaker indicated that he needed some nerve from young actresses to be of the same age who could offer that natural expression which should come spontaneously.

Filmmaking is fascinating for Fernando Pérez and the expertise in his profession has been necessary, since we can find characters with dissimilar features.

“The characters I like most are those who are not perfect, who can disconcert, who can have doubts, make mistakes, that’s what marks them as human.”

Given the fact that the characters are together in a plot, with the peculiarities of those spaces, we wanted to know more about the experience of the shooting, although Fernando with his significant expertise seems to be like a fish in water when it comes to filming outdoors.

Anyway, Fernando confessed that “if there is something I get excited about my city is that Havana is a great cinematographic set. It’s not just the plot, it’s the streets. Lately when I shoot a film of contemporary situations I just place the camera on the streets and the bystanders end up taking part in the film.

“That does not happen abroad. Cubans’ participation is very warm here.”

For this restless creator it’s also a motivating factor to receive different criteria in the public who watch his films, like in the last few days with Últimos días..., which was already screened in the latest ICAIC Young Exhibition and in the 17th National Film Critics Workshop.

It’s now for the public in this 38th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema to join that symbolic construction of image and sound proposed by Fernando Pérez, who is preparing for his next production, a film about a true story of early 20th century in Cuba, for which the filmmaker expects to cause a great impact.

The film is just a project, so the lovers of Cuban cinema will have to wait until it is finished, and JR will have the scoop for the readers to approach the outstanding creator. 

Translated by ESTI    

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