For a long time, the scarce presence of women behind the camera in Cuban film, especially in fiction, has been discussed. Most of the women filmmakers on the island are documentary filmmakers, but in recent times women have gained ground in other genres.
Magda González Grau’s fiction feature length ¿Por qué lloran mis amigas? (Why do my friends cry?) is currently being screened across the country, following its national premiere, on February 28, at Havana’s emblematic Charles Chaplin cinema.
Thus González Grau joins the small list of Cuban women directors who have made fiction feature films. Among them are Sara Gómez, who paved the way, (De cierta manera, 1974); Teresa Ordoqui (Te llamarás inocencia, 1988); Rebeca Chávez (Ciudad en rojo, 2009); Marilyn Solaya (Vestido de novia, 2014); Jessica Rodríguez (Espejuelos oscuros, 2014); and Patricia Ramos (El techo, 2017).
It would appear that 2018 is going to be a good year for Cuban women filmmakers, as Mirta González Perera has already premiered La hoja de la caleta, made alongside Jorge Campanería, and the 2018 National Film Prize was awarded to editor and director Miriam Talavera, for her most recent work in the edition of Los buenas demonios, by Gerardo Chijona.
WHY DO MY FRIENDS CRY?
¿Por qué lloran mis amigas? is the first fiction feature film by Magda González Grau, and deals with the life stories of four female friends reunited after more than twenty years. Their conflicts, frustrations, and sorrows emerge throughout the reunion, but they also share their happiness and achievements during their years of separation. The past and the present thus intertwine.
The film was presented in the non-competitive “Full House” section of the 2017 39th edition of the Havana International Festival ofNew Latin American Cinema, has a running time of 82 minutes, and was co-produced by RTV Comercial, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) and Televisión Cubana.
It features a cast starring established Cuban movie and television actors Luisa María Jiménez (Gloria), Yasmín Gómez (Yara), Edith Massola (Carmen) and Amarilys Núñez (Irene), accompanied in the supporting roles by two other great actors, Paula Alí and Patricio Wood, and the younger Roque Moreno, Nestor Jiménez Jr. and Ariadna Álvarez.
In the lead up to the national premiere, a press conference was held at Havana’s Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, with the director and part of the cast and technical team. González Grau began by stating that they had attempted to portray realistic life stories, for which they had used the screenplay by Hannah Imbert, and relied on star performances.
“We wanted a film worthy of a Coral Prize, it was a challenge that we enjoyed, because we had to keep the balance between the four main characters so that no conflict would overshadow another. The public may come out saying that they like a particular character more than the others, but all should have the same importance.”
Regarding the technical aspects, the editing was also in the hands of a woman, Celia Suárez, who explained, “The objective was to offer visual diversity through different types of shot, overcoming the limits of filming entirely indoors,” while the interiors were used “to coincide with the intimate problems of the characters.”
The director used a single location for the friends’ reunion, and only left this setting to show, in parallel, the current day and some flashbacks to their student years.
The cinematography was the responsibility of Roberto Otero, and on explaining the multiple close-ups used, the director noted that while they considered these more characteristic of television, as film tends to use more general shots, she believed: “There are phrases that can only be said in a close shot, at least when you are looking for emotion in the viewer and that is what I have always sought with my work.”
Meanwhile, the art direction was the work of another filmmaker, Tomás Piard, and the original music is by the well-known Juan Antonio Leyva and Magda Galván, regarding whom González Grau noted, “At this moment, they are the musicians who best understand the value of a film soundtrack in Cuba.”
In ¿Por qué lloran mis amigas? Magda González Grau approaches current women’s issues in Cuban society. Her thesis is that through friendship, love, and tolerance, common understandings can be reached regarding a diversity of thought and sexual orientations.
To present her theory, she had a cast of four intelligent and prepared actresses, and some interesting, powerful, attractive stories.
The film is now undergoing the crucial test before the island’s keen moviegoers in cinemas across Cuba, who will surely offer their verdict.