Brazil’s Habanero Film Sales has brought a slate of new films marking their debut at Cannes’ Marché du Film. Leading the pack is Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga’s latest drama, “Vicenta B” as well as Cuba-U.S.-Canada co-production “Corrosive” and Brazilian coming-of-age drama “Bittersweet Rain” (“Saudade Fez Morada Aqui Dentro”), currently in post.
“Resistance, migration, those who stay and those who leave, finding out who we are, where we belong, finding meaning to our own existence…those are recurrent topics in our catalog, composed of features and a growing slate of social and environmental documentaries from Latin American and Caribbean directors, with a special focus on Cuban independent cinema,” said Habanero CEO, Alfredo Calviño.
Last year, “Vicenta B.” snagged the largest cash industry prize at San Sebastian Film Festival’s industry awards, the Egeda Platino Industry Award for the Best Work in Progress (WIP), Latin American film.
While also a reflection on the current state of affairs in Cuba, “Vicenta B” is unlikely to cause as much of a stir as his 2016 drama “Santa y Andres.” Despite being initially selected to play at the 38th Int’l Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, it was rejected by fest backer ICAIC, Cuba’s state-run film institute, irked by its storyline about an unlikely friendship between a gay novelist under house arrest and the revolutionary peasant woman sent to mind him. It has never been released in Cuba given that ICAIC also handles distribution in the communist island nation.
“Topics such as soul searching, crises of faith, family isolation are common in Western arthouse cinema. Films from our side of the world, however, tend to gravitate and set light to more hard-core visceral problems and situations, but: What happens when a black or poor woman has an existential crisis?” Lechuga asks about his third feature film. “An existential crisis has not appeared in Cuban cinema for years,” he noted.
In the drama, the titular Vicenta B is a respected “santera” in Havana who has the gift of clairvoyance. While her business thrives, she hopes that her son continues the family tradition of helping others. But he decides to emigrate and Vicenta finds herself in a crisis of faith and loses her gift. Alone, she finds herself questioning her life, but also unable to understand why she has been left alone in a country where everyone seems to have lost their faith.
“Vicenta’ is also the story of a country where there are many lonely mothers. Right now in Cuba there are many imprisoned kids simply for thinking differently,” Lechuga said, referring to the massive exodus from the country and those detained during the massive protests in July last year.
“Carlos’ films are radically political even in those when he is not explicitly talking about politics, like in ‘Vicenta B,’” observed Patricia Martin, a partner at Habanero Film Sales.
Habanero also recently picked up worldwide sales on Alfredo Ureta’s psychological thriller “Corrosive” that had an online screening at the Marché du Film on May 20. Set during the pandemic, two young couples rent a house on the outskirts of the city. What begins as an idyllic escape from the scourge devolves into petty quarrels that escalate into raging violence and a struggle for survival.
In Haroldo Borges’ sophomore drama, “Bittersweet Rain,” “a young, fatherless teen living in the Brazilian heartland contracts a degenerative eye disease that will ultimately leave him sightless.
Other notable titles in Habanero’s lineup include a group of women-directed features and docs, among them: Puerto Rican Macha Colón’s “Perfume de Gardenias;” the coming-of-age Bolivian feature “Sun & Daughter” (“Cuidando al sol”) by Catalina Razzini; and from Cuba, “Mafifa” by Daniela Muñoz, that premiered at IDFA.