While Cuba’s been having a bit of difficulty settling on an Oscar candidate this year, a couple of countries have apparently stepped in to fill the gap. First, Venezuela sent the Oscar committee their official selection in the form of Dauna, lo que lleva el río (Dauna, Gone with the River) by Caracas-based Cuban director Mario Crespo. Now Ireland has officially done their part with the Cuban-set Spanish language film entitled Viva. Yes, you read correctly: The Emerald Isle has submitted an otherwise entirely Cuban film to represent it in the category of Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards. And oddly, it’s not the first time Ireland’s gone and pulled something like this.
Despite the film being in Spanish and mostly shot in Cuba, Oscar eligibility rules say that it can be considered an Irish film since the director and producers are from the submitting country. Ireland’s selection committee must also prove that citizens of their country are involved in three of these six crew positions: art director, cinematographer, costume designer, editor, sound mixer, and music composer.
Viva was directed by veteran Irish helmer Paddy Breathnach as a follow-up to his almost universally panned 2008 horror flick Freakdog, and follows the predictably cliché story of an aspiring drag queen from the rubble-strewn streets of Centro Habana who clashes with his macho father after he returns home from prison. Think Gun Hill Road, but with shoeless children running along Havana’s Malecón.
Of course, none of this means Viva is necessarily bad, and in fact the film made quite an impression when it premiered earlier this year at the uber-prestigious Telluride Film Festival. Benicio Del Toro has also recently co-signed the feature as Executive Producer, and a number of important Cuban actors – among them Jorge Perugorría (Fresa y chocolate) – were included in the cast. But we’ll have to wait until December to see if the Academy was convinced enough to include it on the shortlist. In the meantime, it’s good to know that at least Cuba made it to the Academy in spirit.