Havana Bad Day: reviews of films on the Cuba50 film tour

Review of: 'Paginas del diario de Mauricio' (Maricio's Diary) dir. Manuel Perez 2006 A man wakes up to an alarm clock in a flat in Havana at four in the morning. We are told it is his 60th birthday. He turns the TV on. Cuba are playing baseball against the United States – the hated 'Yankis – at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, The Americans are winning by a mile. There's a phone call. The man's best friend had been so upset by the game, he's had a stroke and is being rushed to hospital.

We're five minutes into the film, 'Mauricio's Diary' and a couple of hours into Mauricio's birthday.It hasn't started well for the poor guy.

As the film proceeds, with flashbacks to 1990 when Cuba was struggling with the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union, we realise he too hasn't had much of a decade.

'Mauricio's Diary' is a Cuban film made by ICAIC the Cuban Goverment's film institute. You might expect such an organisation, to put out mildly propaganda films that make life in the country look like a bed of roses. Far from it. Clearly there hasn't been a counter revolutionary film made on Cuba in the last fifty years, but directors are allowed – even encouraged – to look at the day-to-day difficulties faced by Cubans as the country struggles to exist in it's difficult geopolitical circumstances.

This film deals with real life in Cuba and takes an honest look at the aftermath of the sort of decisions real-life Cubans have to make. It is a genuine and at times, heart-rending film which leaves you liking it, despite its occasional drifts into soap-opera territory (we could have done withour the tinkly piano at emotional moments) and its drawn out conclusion. But it does leave you understanding a little more about Cuba – even a little more about life – than when you started watching it.Strangely, a sporting event on TV mirrors every important shift in the characters' lives.

'The Awkward Age' (La edad de la peseta) dir. Pavel Giroud 2006 Havana in 1958 just prior to the Revolution: Alice and her 10 year old son Samuel, go to live with Violeta, his eccentric grandmother.Violeta doesn't like children and is distinctly underwhelmed by their arrival, wanting to be left alone to concentrate on her work as a photographer.Struggling at school, Samuel starts to spend more time helping out as Violeta's assistant, and getting kissing lessons from a local prostitute's daughter. Gradually Damuel and his grandmother develop a close and enduring bond as he takes his first painful steps into the adult world.The relationships between the three generations are finely drawn and sensitively portrayed throughout. Pavel Giroud's debut feature is an accomplished work, full of charm and period detail.

by Alex Leith – 'Viva Lewes'

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