Patricia Ramos grew up in a Havana neighborhood where she observed a host of people going on about their lives on the rooftops, almost akin to an alternate city. Her feature debut, “El Techo” (“On the Roof”) turns on three people in their early twenties, who pass the time on a rooftop telling stories and relating their dreams. One of them, despite his dark skin, claims he’s part Sicilian and wants to find his Italian family. They open up a pizzeria on the rooftop where the challenges of running a business help them find their path in life.
“There’s now a real pizzeria on the rooftop where we shot,” Ramos laughs. She sees “El Techo” as a reflection on the circumstances of her country and of its youth, many of whom are rudderless for the lack of work opportunities.
In a way, she has been exploring these themes in her past fiction shorts “Na-Na” and “El Patio de Mi Casa,” made after her screenwriting studies at Cuba’s prestigious San Antonio de los Baños Film & TV School and similar courses at the Fundacion Toscano and the Sundance Institute. She has taught the craft in Havana, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica and since 2002, has evaluated scripts at Cuba’s state-run film institute ICAIC. She continues to write up a storm, with several projects in development with her Nicaraguan husband-producer Humberto Jimenez, including the Hubert Bals Fund-backed “The Swede,” based on the eponymous novel by Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal, which has participated in various screen workshops and forums, and “The Eclipse,” a Nicaragua-set landmine drama penned by Jimenez.
Other scripts in development include “Enriqueta Faber o los Ultimos Dias de un Hombre” about the first female European doctor to visit Cuba in the 19th century who disguised herself as a man, and an untitled love story about a middle-aged woman. “El Techo” bows at the Havana Int’l Film Fest on Saturday, Dec. 10.