Cuba’s first superhero feature length animation was finally premiered in December 2022 at Havana’s New Latin American Cinema festival, with view to being shown across the country. The feature film ‘La Súper’ by Ernesto Piña had faced many challenges in production during the pandemic. The professional production team had had to rethink new forms of remote work, having been accustomed to sitting around a table together.
‘The Super’ is a feature length animation with an opulent and feminist superheroine, based on a comic strip the director made more than a decade ago with scriptwriter Hugo Rivalta. Ernesto Piña is an expert in cartoon cinema and his previous works “Puberty”, “Wajiros” and “Sin pelos en la lengua” have become well-known titles on the island.
“We have created an international history that can be understood anywhere in the world and doesn’t happen in a specific known place . It takes place in a city with an eclectic fusion as regards culture, architecture or behaviour of the people, “said the filmmaker.
The story of “The Super” has as its protagonist Jevalentina, an aboriginal warrior who five centuries ago freed the inhabitants of a village. Her spirit is reborn 500 years later and is presented to Yudeisi, a young chemistry teacher with a vocation for justice and whose family worships that that iconic warrior.
As director Piña explained, Yudeisi is the one chosen to become a kind of superhero and defend women from patriarchal violence, “Jevalentina gives her the power of harmony, which hypnotizes men, clarifies their thoughts and turns them into different beings.”
Before starting, Piña and Hugo Rivalta decided that the social issue they were going to deal with would be sexist violence, something that they themselves felt is a day-to-day problem in their country, “Given the harsh reality, I felt the desire and the need to make it visible in my art. ‘The Super’ will be my modest contribution to the fight for gender equality, so indispensable in a just society,” the director told Cubacine.
The story, which on the big screen features the voices of Ariana Álvarez as Yudeisi and Tahimí Alvariño as Jevalentina, has been developing since 2009 between Piña and Hugo Rivalta, a screenwriter who has worked with the director since “Puberty”. There was always that hope that the cartoon would become a full length animation but it was not until 2019 when ICAIC took over the project and wanted to make it a reality.
The film editor Liliana Hernández also played an important role. “La Súper is the first feature film I edited. The film has a fairly dynamic pace. In addition to the cuts made in the editing process, the way in which the actions were conceived from the script and its staging influenced me, ” she said.
The very nature of the subject made the production face numerous dilemmas. The most important of all was to show sexist violence with seriousness and respect, for which the advice of specialists such as the professor of Cinema and Gender at the Faculty of Art of Audiovisual Media, Danae Diéguez, as well as the Doctor in Psychological Sciences and feminist researcher, Norma Vasallo, was used. The latter was responsible for revising parts of the plot and also contributed to the development of the script.
This also impacted aesthetics. In this regard, Ernesto Piña explains that “as it is such a serious theme, a cartoon-type animation was thought of to create a distance with the public and, at the same time, draw attention to the colors so that it follows the story they are telling, without any type of didacticism […]. Hopefully it helps to reflect on the different modes of gender violence that exist so that it is understood that it is an evil that we must eradicate.”
After the premier some specialists made assessments with a critical and constructive eye, including psychologist and gender specialist Mareleen Díaz Tenorio who said:
” I was very happy with the result. I noticed many positives from my experience in gender. Most importantly, it is focused on important essences. Some might say that the film does not show all expressions of gender-based violence and it is true. But that may be impossible because there are too many variants. But what it could do and did do was focus on gender violence exercised by men against women. And that is the most frequent and most serious expression of all gender-based violence in the history of humanity. Therefore, the film hits the target, it is accurate.”
“Another value that I appreciated was the animation itself and its appeal to prevent violence by educating, changing subjectivities through a way that spontaneously reaches those who prefer or like animation. Art as an alternative for change. This film has a crucial value for me, and that is that violence does not disappear with more violence. The Super does not attack to achieve its objectives. The path is never violence. I noticed the diversity and authenticity of body shapes, as well as the protagonist herself whose body is contrary to the canons of beauty promoted by patriarchy. I imagine the screening of the film with groups of young people and then a debate and group reflection. But in any case, the great thing is that the work speaks and walks by itself. It is a great contribution for us in Cuba, and in other societies too of course, to achieve greater gender equality, “concluded Mareleen Díaz Tenorio expressing her respect and admiration to Ernesto for his work and congratulating the entire production team.
The team also received advice from other filmmakers such as: Ernesto Daranas, José Martín Díaz, Jorge Oliver, Juan Padrón.
ICAIC Animation Director, Esther Hirzel, said: “It’s not just about the production of feature films that are continuing to grow, too, through series; but to continue insisting on addressing core issues. I think that because our studios have a responsibility to think about the experience not only of children but of the family and society itself, we dared with La Súper with this urgent and important issue”.
Watch this short trailer on Youtube