Mónica Rivero and Milena Recio interviewed director Fernando Pérez for OnCuba. The director speaks about his use of the city—Havana—as a set for many of his films explains his filmic trajectory, his motivations, challenges, and his cinematic language in great detail. Read the full interview at OnCuba. Here are excerpts:
If there is someone for whom Havana is a set that is Fernando Pérez. Here are his films, brewing in plain view. He feels them and he films them: Clandestinos, Madagascar, Hello Hemingway, La vida es silbar, Suite Habana, José Martí. El ojo del canario, Madrigal, La pared de las palabras, and announced for next December is the premier of Últimos días en La Habana, his most recent production.
Fernando Pérez talks with OnCuba and describes his film as a “happy drama” that started having a title only apt for Cubans. “In this film, for reasons that the spectators will discover when they see it, the title ‘Chupa pirulí’ [Lollipop licking] attracted me a great deal. The immediate reaction was laughter or confusion. ‘Is it a comedy?’ ‘No, it’s not a comedy, it’s a happy drama.’ And the confused would say to me: ‘But that isn’t one of your films.’” Co-producer José María Morales advised that a second title be found, more “international,” and that’s how Últimos días … came up, which when screened in Havana will keep the wink of the initial title.
Últimos días en La Habana or Chupa pirulí hopes to represent the drama of the major part of the Cuban population in its survival, “where there are many problems, many dark days, but in which, despite this, Cubans manage with a positive charge that balances and prevents the crisis from being greater.” [. . .]
The fact of not appealing to difficult or too symbolic metaphors, aspects that have been very persistent in your work, means a mutation of Fernando Pérez?
In my first two films, Clandestinos and Hello Hemingway, I felt I had to prove myself that I was capable of telling a story and making the characters credible. Handling a symbolic language, expressing the subjectivity of the characters, their psychological depth, were for me the most important when I started making movies.
Today I believe it’s equally difficult to make a fiction film. With Madagascar I wanted a realistic language; I wanted to delve in depth into the imprints that the Special Period was beginning to leave on my generation and on that of my children. That’s why I started working the metaphor and from there I continued with La vida es silbar and Suite Habana which, even while being a documentary, resorts to an associative language and has sequences with many metaphors.
Then there was Madrigal, where there are associations, metaphors and barehanded symbols…. It is my accursed film. I like it but almost no one likes it. José Martí… is again a fiction film and the same occurs with La pared de las palabras, where life stories are told, but there are situations and sequences that invite the spectators to make readings that do not directly emerge from the story told. [. . . ]
[Photo by Ismario Rodríguez Pérez.]
For full interview, see http://oncubamagazine.com/culture/fernando-perez-in-his-metamorphosis/