Guantanamera!, the final film by Cuban filmmaker Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, is a dazzling "socio-drama," engaging and paying homage to his country on numerous levels. And what a career epilogue it is, exploring personal and political issues with an ease attained despite the collaboration of three screenwriters as well as the co-direction of his longtime partner, Juan Carlos Tabio (Alea's collaborator on several films, including Strawberry and Chocolate).
The movie's mirth begins when Aunt Yoyita (Conchita Brando), on her return to the town of Guantanamera, is reunited with her first love Candido (Raúl Eguren) after 50 years' detachment from both. In talks with her niece Georgina (Mirtha Ibarra), a schoolteacher, Yoyita hesitates about seeing Candido again, but is convinced anyway. "He's no 18-year old now, either," Georgina notes. Their meeting is simply splendid with reminiscences and old records, that is, until Yoyita falls into Candido's loving arms, swoons and dies.
In hopes of promoting himself as a politician, Georgina's husband Adolfo (Carlos Cruz) has helmed a plan to cut Cuban fuel consumption in funeral transports, by changing the retinues' vehicles at each town during the trips. A bizarre outing then comes together, as Yoyita's casket must be driven to Havana by Georgina, Candido, Adolfo and a chauffeur. And even stranger twists unfold.
Alea muses at length on many of Cuba's modern problems and issues with depth, subtlety and, most importantly, humor. In a parallel to Candido's tragic romance, Georgina runs into Mariano (Jorge Perugorria), a former student and admirer of hers at a pit stop. But when one of Mariano's jealous girlfriends catches up to these lovebirds, the feathers &emdash; and blunt objects &emdash; fly. Alea's scenarios are mostly lyrical, but a series of images on the road ("Socialism or death" reads graffiti on a wall) bear overtly political messages as well. Alea and his co-writers balance all of this easily and hilariously.
The film retains a fulfilled tone of romance right through to the end, and at least two of its subplot lines work as modern parables. Despite an equivocal resolution, Alea does seem to be championing the demise of old institutions and causes. A wonderful driving sequence in the rain, complete with voiceover (by Alea himself?), brilliantly confirms this narrative from a film that is sprawlingly complex. By this point, it is evident that Alea has served well &emdash; and transcended &emdash; Cuba's cause.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.