Second stroke of luck I had with a Cuban movie. Original plot. Almost everything within a single house and with a minimal cast. Yet it is captivating how things develop
I saw this film as part of the Rotterdam film festival 2013 (IFFR). It was the world premiere, and the venue (200 seats) was fully booked. It was produced independently and without any official funding, which is unusual in Cuba where always an official film institute has to be involved. In the final Q&A with the film makers, we learned a few other uncommon aspects of this film. For example the fact that everything happens inside, is very non-standard, especially knowing that there were even rules in the past that outside scenes were mandatory.
The plot is very unusual and also very original. It worked out differently from what I had expected, and much better as a result. Beforehand I assumed a series of mutual hostilities between the original owner (but evicted, so no legal rights to be there) and the squatter couple (without any rights by definition). They could have made noises during the night, destroyed each other properties, or similar destructive acts that lead to no solution. But luckily, none of this was the case. Rather than a hopeless stalemate situation as it seemed in the beginning, the plot took several unexpected turns. The anticipation what would happen next, was there all the time.
The film makers did not have a thriller in mind, nor a psychological drama. Instead, they just allowed us to observe step-by-step how the antagonists got closer together, in spite of their opposite interests. The impending hurricane helped a bit, giving them a common enemy from the outside. The building inspector who paid them visits on an irregular basis, was also a common outside influence. However, he could have been recruited by either side, so not strictly a common enemy like the hurricane was. Internally, we saw peace offerings in the form of sex, or preparing a meal for all. In other words, we saw a micro world that was threatened by various external forces, gradually changing everyone's position until we almost arrived at a menage-a-trois (but the ending left that open).
The audience had some questions in the final Q&A. Firstly about the title of the movie. This was explained by the director, but he lost me there (I don't consider this a problem, as I enjoyed the film nevertheless). It has to do with a protest song that was sung at the end, explaining the moods of the three at that particular moment, and at the same time reflecting the situation in Cuba nowadays. Secondly, another question asked from the audience was about the blowjob in the restaurant, performed by Lia (everything neatly hidden under the table cloth), as requested by a couple that had several other wishes out of the ordinary. Contrary to what we expected, it was not intended as a reference to sex tourism in Cuba, but rather to illustrate that the average Cuban assumes that all Chinese restaurants hide some mystery and that very peculiar things happen there, in addition to serving food and drinks.
All in all, this movie worked out much better as expected, given the presumed small cast and narrow space wherein everything happens, as can be derived from the synopsis on the festival website. Moreover, I had little experience with Cuban films. Before this one I only saw Juan de los Mortos (2011), which I thought to be a nice satire. So this Jirafas is my second stroke of luck in this respect. Jirafas received an average score of 3.3 (out of 5) for the audience award.
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