From seven filmmakers comes a compilation movie in the fashion of New York, I Love You and Paris Je t’aime; filmed and set entirely in Havana, Cuba (as the title might suggest) the film is split into seven segments of similar lengths and charts the adventures and misadventures of a disparate bunch of characters over the course of a wee and brings the vibrancy of contemporary Cuba to the screen.
Last week in London we were treated to an exclusive preview screening of 7 Days In Havana at Shortwave Cinema, before the film went on general release on Friday. I was privileged to experience a slice of Havana, starting off the evening sipping an authentic Havana Club 3 Year Old Mojito upon arrival, whilst listening to the enchanting music of Son Yumba. After the film we partied Havana-style to the beats of DJ Cal Jader, with Cuban dancers getting the crowd going.
These exclusive 7 Days in Havana events have been taking place across seven cities over seven nights nationwide from 26th June to 5th July; visiting Edinburgh, Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Brighton and London, ahead of the film’s cinema release on the 6th July.
The film itself is far from a love-letter to Cuba and explores the dark sides of the former Soviet state as well all the energy and exuberance and excitement in the society, famed for being one of the friendliest and accommodating nations on the planet.
Monday, directed by Benicio Del Toro is a vibrant, funny, fish out of water story about an American actor in Cuba to research a role; Tuesday sees famed Serbian director Emir Kusturica star in a meandering, but superbly directed, Sofia Coppola-esque yarn, whereas Wednesday changes the tone and focuses on a gifted singer given the opportunity of success if she leaves Havana and her washed up husband. It’s a tale reminiscent of Joyce’s Eveline, and has the same wrenching ending.
The first three days are all energetic, entertaining stories. While the change of tone for Wednesday is a tad jarring, the desperation of the character and the choice she is posed is intensely engaging.
Thursday, however, is painfully slow; another fish out of water story it has the sensibilities of a silent film but is far too ambiguous for this point in the film and too pretentious for its own good. It’s also very light which doesn’t work well with the hard-hitting, uneasy watch of Friday, which looks at the darker side of a Cuban society, that is still deeply conservative and deals with a lesbian in a disturbing, ritualistic manner. Saturday and Sunday are both solid stories, focusing on the sense of family and community in Cuba. They are too similar and end the film on a slow, uninspiring note, which does not do justice to the first half of the picture.
Another flaw is the failure to decide whether the stories are all separate or linked in an intelligent, cohesive nature. Wednesday and Saturday are linked and Saturday linked with Sunday, but other than that any factor that binds other stories together could be called tenuous at best, it sees as if there may be subtle references throughout, but no overt, other than the fact all stories are set in Havana. And while you could argue that there need not be this sense of conversion which could feel quite contrived, I personally feel that they should have either made them all linked in an interesting way or kept them all separate. The end result is neither here nor there.
The most amazing achievement of 7 Days in Havana is the way it makes the city a character in its own right. After the first two stories I was longing to visit Havana and take in the sights and the sounds; the food and the nightlife and the wonderful music which the film showcases with great aplomb.
7 Days in Havana is a flawed but enjoyable compilation movie filled with passion, flair and a rich variety of characters; the most interesting and engaging of all being Havana itself.
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