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  •  REVIEW: SUITE HABANA

    Suite Habana

    Soy Havana

    Slow but rewarding, "Suite Habana" is an affectionate photo album of daily life for a handful of Cubans.

    By PETER THEIS
    Offoffoff.com

    A fly on the wall and in the street, the point of view in "Suite Habana" takes in Havana and its denizens with an affectionate gaze. Lacking narrative drive, drama, and even speech, the non-fiction film is a lyrical document, humanist catalogue, kinetic photo album, and an ode to everyday moments, joys, lulls, and tasks.

      
    SUITE HABANA
    Original title: Suite Havana.
    Written and directed by: Fernando Prez.
    Cast: Francisco Cardet, Amanda Gautier.
    Cinematography: Ral Perez Ureta.
    Edited by: Pedro Oscar Prez, Julia Yip.
    In Spanish with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
     RELATED ARTICLES
    Havana Film Festival in New York
  •  Suite Habana

  •  Official site
  • Tribeca Film Festival
  •  Suite Habana
  •  Official site
  • The unit of focus is the family, and almost a dozen are featured, shot in chronological, day-in-the-life style. The film skirts from one subject to another, and the characterization of each person is patiently constructed as morning passes to afternoon, afternoon to night. Just a sampling: a hospital launderer by day performs in drag by night; a railroad mechanic plays saxophone in his church's choir; a young man does carpentry work on his family's home before dancing ballet; an elderly woman keeps house for grandson and husband before painting in night's silence.

    Happily, the sum of the film far exceeds a diary of a day's activities; like the recent arthouse hit "My Architect," the film coyly uses an uncomplicated method as cover for touching on great human themes, such as devotion, loss, and the pursuit of dreams. Confident in the music of its subjects' modest lives, "Suite Habana" discreetly promotes its humanist vision that there is sanctity and beauty in even the plainest day, and that human bonds and realizable dreams are sufficient riches.

    Suite Habana  
    Much is omitted, of course. Everyone featured is good if not angelic, and, despite the poverty and cramped conditions that the subjects endure, there is no abuse, crime, desperation, repression, or even frayed nerves. Sex and sexual desire are hardly even suggested (perhaps erring too far in a corrective move to counter tropical stereotypes). For all its humanism, the film, Hallmark-style, is selective in its affirmations and forgoes critique of any kind, creating a picture of an innocent world which we wish we could, but can't, describe to our children. Both edited and epic, this is Clean Havana, the parallel city to the filthy, crumbling, wracked, licentious and louche Havana depicted in Pedro Juan Gutierrez's novel "Dirty Havana," where poverty invests all its victims with a mercenary psychology and horizonless hopelessness.

    As a near-silent lyrical treatment of place and people, "Suite Habana" works the same cinematic corner as one of the most famous films about Cuba, the '60s Soviet agitprop piece "Soy Cuba." However, in contrast to that film's Marxist methodology, "Suite Habana" is a purely organic picture, where truths arise unforced from the particularity and specificity of the lives of its subjects. As far as attitude towards Cuba, if "Soy Cuba" is a skilled heart surgeon, diagnosing the ills of pre-Castro Cuban society and illustrating them forcefully in unnuanced black and white to a crowd of admiring students, "Suite Habana" is an elderly family physician, who knows his patients intimately, and cares for them deeply. The old-fashioned warmth of this physician, and this film, should not be resisted.

    MAY 1, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Suite Habana:

  • Just amazing work of Fernando...   from vcaribe, Dec 28, 2004
  • Re: Just amazing work of Fernando...   from Jorge Perez. student @STU, Apr 22, 2005
  • Suite Habana   from howard marcus, May 11, 2006
  • Great film   from Pepe, Mar 19, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Suite Habana"