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GUANTANAMERA(director/writer: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea/Juan Carlos Tabió; screenwriter: Eliseo Alberto Diego/Garcia Marroz; cinematographer: Hans Burmann; editor: Carmen Frías; music: Jose Nieto; cast: Carlos Cruz (Adolfo, The Bureaucrat ), Mirta Ibarra (Georgina), Jorge Perugorria (Mariano), Raul Eguren (Candido), Suset Perez Malberti (Iku), Conchita Brando (Yoyita, The Singer); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gerardo Herrero; New Yorker; 1994-Cuba-in Spanish with English subtitles)
All too familiar as a political satire.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was veteran Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s last film before he died. It was co-directed and co-written by Juan Carlos Tabió (“Strawberry and Chocolate”), who completed the film upon Alea’s death. It’s a road movie that is all too familiar as a political satire; it satirizes the economically depressed Cuban life under Castro in the ’60s and ’70s, as it deals with the aftermath of the now massive economic problems of the early ’90s.

A world famous elderly diva Yoyita (the “Guantanamera” of the song and title) who lives abroad to earn her riches, returns to Cuba where she is met by her niece Georgina (Mirtha Ibbara), an ex-economics lecturer. While Georgina’s husband Adolfo (Carlos Cruz), an undertaker, struggles with a bureaucratic committee as he enthusiastically presents his new ideas, she and Yoyita take a stroll through the town. By chance, Yoyita bumps into her childhood sweetheart Candido (Raul Eguren) and they quickly discover they still have strong feelings for each other despite not being together for 50 years. Just at the moment when Candido is offering her his unconditional love, Yoyita dies in the arms of her old flame.

This sitcom-like tale then turns its attention to the stubborn bureaucrat Adolfo, who relishes the chance to test out his new corpse transportation plan that schemes to save gasoline for Havana burials. While accompanying the casket Georgina, Adolfo and Candido are driven by black-marketeer Tony (Luis Alberto Garcia) across country to the Havana burial site, as Adolfo’s new plan calls for frequent car switches. On the road they meet a pair of womanizing truck drivers, Mariano (Jorge Perugorria) and Ramon (Pedro Fernandez). There are cracks taken at shortages, the black market, and sexist politics. But the film is not satisfied with all that exposure of the crumbling Communist system and thereby settles into a romantic comedy venture, as Georgina has a fling with one of the truck drivers, Mariano, who was her former student. He wrote her of how much he loved her, then dropped out of school in embarrassment. The lesson learned is that in love one must follow the dictates of the heart, as Georgina has a chance to choose between her dull politically ambitious hubby or the romantic younger man.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”