Depictions of modern Cuban life rarely (if ever) find their way to American movie theaters for obvious political reasons. But now that the relationship between the two countries has warmed ever so slightly, that reality may be changing.
On Friday, June 10, Magnolia Pictures will be releasing Viva at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. It tells the story of Jesus (Héctor Medina), a young hairdresser with aspirations to perform in drag at a popular Havana cabaret. Economic hardship persists, not just for him but an entire populace seemingly stuck between the consequences of competing foreign policies.
One day, Jesus' estranged father, a former boxer and low-level celebrity, returns home after a long spell in prison. Angel (Jorge Perugorría) gets drunk on rum, relives his glory days down at the local gym, and forces his son to ditch his dreams of performing. This is machismo coming home to roost.
Yet Paddy Breathnach's modest film isn't the tragedy of repression or denial, but a tender coming-of-age film that envisions compassion in the most unlikely of pairings. Angel and Jesus' troubled relationship represents countless more where absence and judgment has denied a better understanding of the past, not to mention the present.
Viva defines its sense of place through people's personalities, by the stories and memories they tell despite a blanket of unspoken history. It avoids the Western tendency to take an exotic look at Cuban culture and LGBT issues in general, instead focusing on the relationships of regular people trying to regain a sense of personal power no matter their sexual orientation.
Whether it's Angel's performances in the ring or Jesus' performances under his stage name of Viva, the desire to express themselves drives both men. Reclaiming that individual and familial pride makes life's little tortures slightly more tolerable.
Dark Horse : A group of friends from a workingman’s club decides to breed a racehorse to take on the elite “sport of kings.” Screens through Thursday, June 16, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Dheepan : Three Sri Lankan refugees pose as a family to find a better life in France, only to be faced with different hardships.
Now You See Me 2 : Those pesky magician/bank robbers led by Jesse Eisenberg return for more sleight of hand in this flashy sequel. Directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3D).
Puerto Ricans in Paris : Pretty sure the title says it all.
The Conjuring 2 : Famous spiritualists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) are back to save the day from evil spirits in James Wan’s follow-up to his 2013 horror film.
Viva : In modern Havana, a hairdresser’s dreams of performing in a cabaret are complicated when his estranged boxer father returns from prison. Screens through Thursday, June 16, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Warcraft : Based on the popular video game, this hulking big-budget Sci-Fi action romance drama (inadvertent comedy) tells of an orc shaman who opens a portal to the human world in order to escape his own dying planet.
One Time Only
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off : A snarky teenager (Matthew Broderick) with a penchant for skipping school pulls off the ultimate staycation. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Rebecca : Joan Fontaine’s idea of a happy marriage to Laurence Olivier soon turns into her worst nightmare in this Alfred Hitchcock classic. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 9 and 10, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
How to Steal a Million : The charming daughter (Audrey Hepburn) of an art forger recruits a detective (Peter O’Toole) to help her steal back a family heirloom. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
National Lampoon’s Vacation : The Griswold’s take a cross-country vacation they’ll never forget in this comedy from director Harold Ramis. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Heathers : In this classic dark comedy about popularity, a teenage girl (Wynona Ryder) teams up with a sociopath to kill the cool kids. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.