It’s been over twenty years since the fall of the Soviet Union, a historical shift that effectively left Cuba up you-know-who’s creek without a paddle and brought about a little something known as the Periodo Especial. And while the massive boat lifts, food shortages, and generalized desperation that prevailed in Cuba throughout the mid 90s eventually gave way to the widespread tourism, food shortages, and quiet desperation of the 2000s, it seems this very long and very special period might finally be coming to an end with a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations.
It’s telling that Cuban cinema has recently turned its gaze back to those most traumatic years, with at least two films in development dealing directly with the theme along with the debut feature from Cuban filmmaker Marilyn Soraya, Vestido de novia, which uses the chaos of 1994 as the backdrop for a study in Cuban machismo and gender violence.
Vestido de novia follows the story of Rosa Elena — a recently married nurse from Havana who decides to rejoin the male-only choir she had sung with years earlier. As Cuban society reaches a boiling point, dark secrets from Rosa Elena’s past begin to tear apart her new life. While the film follows firmly in the socially-critical tradition of Cuban cinema, taking on often untouched themes of gender roles in post-revolutionary society, the trailer suggests it also continues with the telenovela-style melodrama that has predominated on Cuban screens for the last decade or so. In this short clip, emotive piano music drives along a three-minute flood of tears interspersed with shots of fleeing transvestites and social unrest.
Nevertheless, we know never to judge a book by its cover, as a bad selection of shots may belie solid performances from a veritable who’s-who of Cuba’s finest actors, including protagonist Laura de la Uz, Manuel Porto, Mario Guerra and Jorge Perugorría (from the Oscar-nominated Fresa y Chocolate).
Hopefully this one will come around stateside before too long so you can be the judge.