Cuba Day-to-Day

Miel para Oshun at LALIFF an eye- and ear-catching movie experience

By Dena Burroughs
Published on LatinoLA: July 30, 2002

Cuba Day-to-Day

Last Thursday I watched ?Miel para Oshun? (Honey for Oshun), a Cuban movie presented as part of the Los Angeles Latin International Film Festival (LALIFF). It's an absolutely fantastic movie, the first film ever made by digital technology in the island, with awesome shots not only of Havana but of Gibara, a coastal town in the ?Oriente? or Eastern side of the country; Baracoa, the oldest settlement in Cuba also to the East of the island; and other wonderful places like Varadero y Matanzas.

The movie was directed by Humberto Solas, who has directed many other movies, including his best known ?Lucia? (although ?Miel para Oshun? was the first one in the past decade), and the screenplay was written by his sister, Elia Solas.

The story is of a man, Roberto, that goes back to Cuba after the death of his father, who had taken him to the United States thirty two years before. Roberto returns to the island in search of his mother and some feeling of identity.

This character is played by Jorge Perugorria, who was truly awesome in this movie, and who, according to Mr. Solas, is the best known actor in Cuba, and the one most often contracted outside of the island. Perugorria also starred on ?Fresa y Chocolate? (Strawberry and Chocolate), and ?Guantanamera?.

His character in ?Miel para Oshun? finds his cousin in Cuba, (played by Isabel Santos), and together with a taxi driver he befriends-- (played by Mario Limonta, who is great and hilarious -- travels around the island searching for his mother. It is as part of their comings and goings around the country that the movie shows beautiful sceneries, fantastic views of the land and the coasts, and realistic looks into Cuban day-to-day living, housing, ways of transportation, and yes, music!

The movie? soundtrack is outstanding. According to the credits, several songs were played by Los Van Van, the Orquestra of Gibara, and others ( which I unfortunately did not have enough time to write down on my movie stub), including a few versions of songs originally written by Julio Jaramillo, the Ecuadorian legend. The music alone makes the movie worth watching.

Another very interesting part of the movie is the inclusion of Santeria, which explains the mention of ?Oshun? in the movie?s title. There is a scene portraying a Santeria gathering, in which the ?Santera? or priestess foretells the place where Roberto would find his mother.

For those who may not know, Oshun is one of the goddesses of Santeria, and she is prayed to for love, marriage and fertility. Santeria is a government-sanctioned religion in Cuba, widely practiced, and by his own admittance, observed as well by the movie?s director. There is another clever reason for the ?Miel? part of the movie?s title, but I will leave it alone so as not to kill your fun of watching it.

Overall, ?Miel para Oshun? is a beautiful movie, very possibly because it was not made for commercial purposes. It was an inexpensive movie by today's standards (less than $300,000) and many of the ?actors? were actually non-actors that Mr. Solas hired as they traveled around the island filming. Mr. Solas wanted this movie to be available to all Cubans in the island and the Cuban diaspora, since he believes most families in Cuba have at some point seen one of their members leave the country, to not be seen again but only after many years, sometimes never.

The great acceptance that the movie has received by everyone else has been a pleasant surprise to him. Here in Los Angeles, ?Miel para Oshun? was the first film ever to be shown more than twice during the festival due to audience demand.

I tried to find out from Mr. Solas where ?Miel para Oshun? will be played next, but the only place he could remember at that moment was the Film Festival at the Metro Cinema in London?s West End, which will take place September 6 through 19, 2002. So if anyone in London reads this, treat yourself and go watch this great movie!

I am thrilled I got to see the film here in Los Angeles, and I feel that every Cuban in the States should watch it, as well as any Cuban music lover, and anyone wishing to see a bit of that Cuban paradise. Luckily Mr. Solas was getting ready to sign a contract to produce the movie on video, although he did not have the details when we spoke. Keep the title in mind though, and when you see it available... enjoy!

About Dena Burroughs:
Dena Burroughs is a LatinoLA Correspondent.

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