A disenchanted young pregnant woman is afraid of getting stuck in the small Cuban town where she lives. But when a tornado whisks her away to a luxury resort – where her competitive shooting skills turn her into a celebrity amongst the island’s Communist elite – she comes to realize, like a Hollywood heroine of a bygone era, that there’s no place like home.
A darkly comic portrait of Cuban society, “Shock Labor” (Obra de Choque) is the feature directorial debut of Cuban writer-director Marcos Diaz Sosa. Produced by Maria Carla del Rio’s Marinca Filmes, with Gema Juarez Allen of Argentina’s Gema Films and Mexico’s Sandino Saravia Vinay, the project will be presented in Ventana Sur this week during Proyecta, a new collaboration with the San Sebastian Film Festival to foster co-productions with and within Latin America.
The hotly anticipated title was developed at the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Lab and has been invited to participate at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, Cannes’ La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde, the Guadalajara Co-Production Meetings and the Sørfond Pitching Forum. Del Rio says the project, which grew out of Sosa’s 2016 short film “Natural Phenomena,” “brings something new to the panorama of Cuban independent films.”
“‘Shock Labor’ portrays the youth and dreams of our parents’ generation during the times of brotherhood between Cuba and the USSR,” she says, describing an era when “our parents had plans of constructing a future and a family in Cuba.”
Using absurdist humor and a surrealist pastiche of styles – drawing on everything from “The Wizard of Oz” to Soviet-era propaganda films – the film looks at how younger Cubans are reexamining the assumptions of the past in order to “question the romantic patriotism” of their parents’ generation.
“The generations are changing, but…there is something that remains of the Soviet system,” says del Rio. “We are trying to understand our parents. In a way, they are the sons of the revolution, and we are trying to be in their skin.”
“Shock Labor” has received support from the likes of Programa Ibermedia, the Tribeca Film Institute’s Latin American Fund, and World Cinema Amsterdam’s Go Cuba! initiative, and was awarded 40,000 Swiss francs (around $40,400) last week by Switzerland’s Visions Sud Est fund. “The support from international funds and the cooperation from bilateral funds like Ibermedia are fundamental to push Cuban independent productions,” says del Rio.
“Cuban filmmakers…keep trying to shoot our stories, even when there are no state funds or a film law in Cuba that support us,” she adds. “So this is our ‘revolutionary’ way to confront the disillusionment.”