×

Film Review: ‘Santa & Andrés’

Although Cuba’s official film body has tried to surpress 'Santa & Andrés' at home and in Cuban showcases, the film’s power and prominent festival attention ensure a handsome visibility.

Director:
Carlos Lechuga
With:
Lola Amores, Eduardo Martínez, George Abreu, Luna Tinoco, Cesar Domínguez, Ederlys Rodriguez Perez, Maikel Alexi Sánchez, Celia Ledón.

1 hour 45 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5974422/

The unlikely friendship between a gay dissident writer and the rural woman tasked by the Cuban Communist Party to watch him is sensitively rendered in Carlos Lechuga’s sophomore feature “Santa & Andrés.” Set in eastern Cuba in 1983, when Castro’s insistence on ideological conformity made life all but impossible for anyone whose political beliefs and sexual orientation veered from official policy, the film is an intimate, carefully paced and expertly played drama about the power of a shared humanity to override dogma privileging fear and separation. Sadly, Cuba’s official film propaganda body, the ICAIC, has sought to suppress “Santa & Andrés” from Cuba and Cuban film showcases, but its strengths have been praised since Toronto, and art-house demand will undoubtedly be helped by playing up the attempted censorship angle.

Farm worker Santa (Lola Amores) is assigned to monitor Andrés (Eduardo Martínez) for the three days in which a “Forum for Peace” is taking place nearby. The fear is that Andrés will try to contact a visiting foreign delegate and spread an anti-Revolution message, so each morning Santa arrives at Andrés’ hovel, chair in hand, and stays until evening, aiming for as little interaction as possible. Her cold, disdainful manner stems more from annoyance at being there than a conflict of principles, which come more from her handler Jesus (George Abreu) than any deeply held political stance of her own.

A torrential downpour forces Santa into Andrés’ shack, and she begrudgingly allows some conversation, in which he reveals he spent eight years in prison for writing a book the government didn’t like. A younger mute man (Cesar Domínguez) arrives, clearly Andrés’ volatile lover; this realization separates her further from the man she’s been watching, but when she finds Andrés badly injured the next morning after a fight with his lover, she takes him to the hospital.

Lechuga gives equal time to fleshing out the two main characters, both of whom harbor traumas that make them reticent to open up to others. Years of being treated as an enemy, of seeing friends and lovers hounded, imprisoned or risking their lives to flee the island, have left Andrés weary of fighting and distrustful of everyone. The script avoids direct exposition, allowing circumstance and off-guard remarks to reveal inner demons plaguing both figures, and perhaps because Lechuga is careful not to set up a hierarchy of suffering, he succeeds in granting each person their own pain without a sense of rivalry.

That said, it’s Santa who’s in need of an education, and she’s the one to have her eyes open to their shared humanity. The film indulges in one major misfire, when Santa tries to kiss Andrés; it’s a stereotyped moment, taken from too many lesser films about gay-straight friendships, and has no place here. Far more successful, for example, is a powerful scene toward the end, when Andrés’ tormentors sing the national anthem. If anything has incurred the wrath of Cuba’s culture czars, it’s this moment, certain to send a chill through all those who grew up inculcated by the song and its message.

Amores and Martínez convey a great deal via silence, their wounded physicality expressing far more than words. Both actors use this interiority to subtly convey the characters’ isolation, so desperately in need of links to a sympathetic other. DP Javier Labrador gives prominent place to the rural landscape and physical locations, like Andrés’ run-down hut, situating the actors in a very real setting that also acts as a determinant of behavior, from separation to temporary togetherness.

Film Review: 'Santa & Andrés'

Reviewed online, Rome, Italy, Nov. 9, 2017. (In Toronto, San Sebastian, Seattle, Miami, Frameline, OutFest, Chicago film festivals.) Running time: 105 MIN. (Original title: “Santa y Andrés”)

Production: (Cuba-Colombia-France) A Breaking Glass Pictures release of a Producciones de la 5ta Avenida, Igolai Producciones, Promenades Films production, in collaboration with Habanero Film Sales, El Central Producciones, Seconde Vague Prods., Asociación Cubana del Audiovisual. (International sales: Habanero Film Sales, Rio de Janeiro.) Producers: Claudia Calviño, Carlos Lechuga. Co-producers: Samuel Chauvin, Gustavo Pazmín Perea. Executive producer: Calviño. Director, writer: Carlos Lechuga. Camera (color): Javier Labrador. Editor: Joanna Montero. Music: Santiago Barbosa Cañón.

With: Lola Amores, Eduardo Martínez, George Abreu, Luna Tinoco, Cesar Domínguez, Ederlys Rodriguez Perez, Maikel Alexi Sánchez, Celia Ledón.

More Film

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED More Reviews Video Game Review: 'The Division 2' Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride' New Regency and [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed By Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

  • Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office

    Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office Market Share

    Korean distributors are having to fight ever harder for their share of Korea’s theatrical market share. Threats on the horizon include a slide in the performance of local movies, consolidation, the arrival of new players and the challenge from streaming services. South Korea’s theatrical box office is now bigger than that of France or Germany despite [...]

  • Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in

    Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in Saturated Market

    In 2018, the Korean film business stumbled, as local films made with blockbuster budgets and targeting the usual high seasons of Chuseok and Christmas last year failed to deliver blockbuster earnings.  So Korean distributors have embraced some tactics to enhance their bottom lines.  Genre films “Monstrum,” “Fengshui,” “The Negotiation,” “Take Point,” “Swing Kids” and “Drug King” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content