“Forbidden Fruit” A Taste of Cuban Independent Films

Coral Gables Art Cinema presents Forbidden Fruit, a showcase of Cuban Independent Films in the 21st Century. Inspired by the MoMA exhibition Cuban Cinema under Censorship, the program sought to push Cuban independent filmmakers to the forefront. Although the humor is very niche and might be appreciated by those more knowledgeable of the cultural “intricacies” of Cuban speak, the films offer a wide range of stories told through narratives and documentaries. Opening night featured two short films by director Juan Pablo Daranas Molina and two “micro-shorts” by Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, followed by Enrique Colina’s feature length documentary.

Molina’s first short, Yunaisy, centers around a young director who struggles in creating his film under the censorship laws of Cuba. He’s recently obtained an important scholarship but is in danger of losing it by releasing his new film. His producer urges him to cut one scene deemed anti-government, but Yunaisy refuses, pushing that the scene is pivotal for the story. Shot in a single take and visually comprised of grainy black and white film stock, Yunaisy’s frustration in getting this film done breaks through.

The second short, Cuatro puertas (Four Doors), is more comedic and involves Cuba’s restriction of the internet. Ernesto is granted access to three websites as long as none of them involve US immigration. Comedy ensues as we see his struggle to decide on what the third site should be: either a research scholarship abroad or a website that’ll further his education in the medical field. While using a shady and extremely expensive back channel he encounters the official that treated him rudely, accessing a US immigration application and manages to blackmail him to get a fourth website.

Up next were the Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti micro-shorts. Intended to be casually seen on your phone or laptop, Malberti cuts to the comedy immediately and once the laughs start it has a hard time stopping. Both the shorts, as well as his other works can be found on Malberti’s Youtube channel. The two shorts shown, Giselle and A Professional Training, did not have english subtitles, so if you don’t understand Spanish or more specifically “Cuban-ese” these movies might not work for you the way they worked for a Cuban audience.

The main feature of the night was
Cuba: Oferta Especial, Todo Incluido (Cuba: Special Offer, All-Inclusive) a satirical documentary focused on a Cuba ready for financial aid even if it means prostituting itself to tourist. Director Enrique Colina crafts a narrative surrounding several of the tourist traps found in Havana and the foreigners that come to the island for vacation, exoticism, and cheap sex. Colina employs quick cuts to latin music when he pushes this idea of contrasting the dilapidated Cuba behind the scenes and the vibrant and colorful facade that foreigners see Cuba as.

If you have a chance to catch the tail end of the the festival do yourself a favor and check out these films. If you’re Cuban go out and celebrate your culture. If you’re not, dive in and experience a new culture — that’s what these festivals are for, celebrating and experiencing culture.

Jose Gil is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, along with Certificates in Film Studies