Film: Gerardo Chijona’s “La cosa humana”—A Return to Comedy


Cecilia Crespo (Cubanow) writes that, after two dramas, Boleto al paraíso (Ticket to Paradise) and Esther en alguna parte (Esther Somewhere), Cuban filmmaker Gerardo Chijona returns to comedy, a genre in which he has worked prolifically, with his new film La cosa humana.

La cosa humana is the title of the new film by the director, with which he returns to comedy; although this time he states he’ll experiment with a more sophisticated humor than in previous installments of the genre. Chijona told Cubanow that the film’s story tells about how to become a writer in the most unexpected way. Shooting will begin in April. It’s a film about Havana crime, not along its beaten paths but about a new subject, where literature and marginality converge. Once again, it puts forward suggestion over obviousness, supported by an excellent cast. We spoke about the film with its director.

How did the idea, the plot and then the script emerge?  It’s the brainchild of Francisco Rodríguez with whom I also co-wrote the script for Boleto al paraíso. This idea was first converted into a novella of the same name. On this base we wrote a plot that strayed away a little from the original story. Together we wrote a first version of the script, he rewrote the text and published it. Then we started working on Boleto… and stopped the project to pick it up again later. Right now we’re transcribing version eighteen of the script. My impression is that we’ll finish it in a couple of weeks.

What does La cosa humana deal with?  It tells how a petty criminal finds his real vocation in the most amazing and unexpected way. Everything begins with a robbery in a house where they’re going to steal electrical appliances. Among the items stolen there’s a bag containing a literary manuscript. So he sees the possibility of becoming a writer.

It changes the life of this crime novice who discovers, through hard work and making many mistakes, that he has the writing bug inoculated in his blood, despite the saying everybody can write but not everybody is a writer. The story deals with literary delinquents and an erudite patron chief of misdeeds. The protagonist and his brother are two petty thieves under the aegis of their godfather, a notorious dealer capable of killing if he has to kill and who becomes, through twists of the plot, a patron of the young writer.

What points of contact do we find between this film and your previous productions?  In both of them, social context is not seen much nor is involved with the conflict. As in Esther… the story of this film is very brief and the plot becomes more complex due to the relationships of the characters. In my previous film, what gave complexity to the story was the need of human beings to communicate with each other despite differences. Here I feel what’s important is the need to find a vocation above all. In this new production we’ll also find similarities with Boleto… I’ll also put into practice something I’m still learning: suggestion over the obvious. The scenes of the script always remain unfinished, we never finish off a scene, or they begin later or end before. We worked hard on the structure starting from insinuation, trying not to guide the viewer, rather trying to make him look for his own path within the film.

At first, the script was inspired by Bullets over Broadway by Woody Allen, a film that shows the typical reflective humor of its creator…  The film takes place in a marginal world although the humor is quite sophisticated, something lacking in our cinema. It’s my first film in which the referent is not reality but cinema itself. Although born from a conversation about Bullets… and having a lot to do with the humor of Allen, we got away from the original idea of ​​that film as we put the story together. There are many tributes to the cinema of Allen, of the Coen brothers, to films like The Godfather and to series such as The Sopranos. [. . .]

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