Últimos días en la Habana (Last Days in Havana)
When news broke out that Cuba would open itself up to the world, and in particular to America, there was no doubt that everything would change. For decades the Caribbean communist island was cloistered away from the world, surviving and thriving on its own with the meagre support from its limited allies. Many thousands risked their lives crossing the gulf into Miami and now trade and travel have opened up with the US, this diaspora will only increase.
Last Days in Havana tells the story of two men in their 40s living in a dilapidated building without running water or electricity. Both struggle to scrape by as Miguel (Patricio Wood) takes care of the bedridden Diego (Jorge Martinez) who is struggling with his HIV infection. Only the two of them know that Miguel plans on leaving for the US but when Diego’s condition deteriorates Miguel is trapped in a quandary and struggles to figure out his future.
Writer and director Fernando Pérez uses his background in documentary filmmaking to imbue Last Days in Havana with gritty realism and honest detail, basing his screenplay on the true lives of a tenement house. The result is an intricate cross-section of contemporary Cuba, generational divides and all. Through the grounded performances of the actors, we witness a society in flux, undergoing a tremendous transition.
The hand-held camera dashes in front of the protagonist, catching the poverty and life around him, unafraid to capture the faces of the locals candidly. The soundtrack blends the constant, vibrant music with urban noise so well, the audience feels submerged in the tight squalor themselves.
This is not a flat-out critique but rather a complicated love letter to Cuba. Many characters are too stubborn to admit the shortcoming of the communist project, hence Miguel’s reluctance to reveal his departure to the US.
Last Days in Havana is a visceral and immediate depiction of modern-day Cuba that isn’t afraid to face the contradictions. Fernando Pérez has masterfully bridged the gap between fact and fiction, documentary and feature, to deliver a complex portrait of the country.
Últimos días en la Habana (Last Days in Havana) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Últimos días en la Habana (Last Days in Havana) here: