When, back in 2015, Netflix announced it would be available in Cuba, it was a largely symbolic gesture. For starters, only a privileged handful of Cubans have access to an internet connection anywhere near fast enough to handle HD streaming. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Cubans don’t have access to credit cards – which makes opening a new Netflix account all but impossible without some outside connections.
Still, it gave the global streaming behemoth an excuse to run a colorful PR campaign and have a moment in the headlines for its pioneering work. But for all the pomp and circumstance around this largely useless announcement, Netflix has followed up by by giving a platform to one of Cuba’s most important living novelists in their unprecedented original mini-series Cuatro estaciones en La Habana, which was released this month.
Drawn directly from the hard-boiled detective novels of Leonardo Padura, Cuatro estaciones consists of four self-contained, 90-minute episodes that take place over four seasons at the height of Cuba’s Special Period. Set against the backdrop of economic crisis and social decomposition, the four novels adapted in Cuatro estaciones follow a classic noir formula to peel back layers of corruption, intrigue, and hypocrisy within Cuba’s revolutionary society.
Starring Cuban acting royalty like Jorge Perugorría and Mario Guerra, Cuatro estaciones follows Padura’s fictional detective Mario Conde, as he investigates the types of murders that are usually discussed on the island through furtive whispers, and summarily suppressed by the island’s official media. Taking viewers through Havana’s sordid underworld of drugs and prostitution, the series – which was adapted from the novels by Padura and his wife Lucia López Coll – promises to show a side of Cuban society unlike any you’ve seen before.
To add even more prestige to the affair, the series comes from Spanish production house Tornasol Films, which brought us the Oscar-winning El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) back in 2009; and was directed by Spanish film and television helmer Félix Viscarret, who already has a couple of Goya wins under his belt. In case you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and add this one to your queue straight away.