New Film: “Sergio & Sergei”


One of the Cuban films to be screened at the 42nd edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, September 7-17, 2017) is Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s 2017 Sergio & Serguéi [Sergio & Sergei]. This wry comedy explores friendship, marginalization, and the profound repercussions that the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992 had for Cuba.

Description (by Diana Sánchez): As the Soviet Union crumbles in 1991, an amateur radio operator in Cuba makes unexpected contact with stranded cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev as he observes the dissolution of his nation from orbit, in Cuban director Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s comedic yet poignant reflection on how big events can impact ordinary lives.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992 had profound repercussions for the state of Cuba — the USSR had been the small island nation’s main economic supporter. It had more personal ramifications for Soviet cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who was forced to stay in orbit an extra four months while his country went through a bewildering transformation. Intertwining fictionalized personal experiences with historical facts, Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s comedic third feature is a thoughtful, poignant reflection on big events and their effects on ordinary lives.

Avid amateur radio operator Sergio (Tomás Cao) is barely able to provide for his mother and young daughter on his meager university professor’s salary. One evening, as he is testing a new radio, he stumbles upon a channel that communicates directly with the Mir space station. Aboard the station, lonely astronaut Sergei (Serguéi in Spanish, played by Héctor Noas) orbits the earth all alone because the funding to bring him back home has run out. These two men, marginalized in their respective ways and mocked by history, develop a friendship that will have profound consequences.

Weaving together an exquisite mix of communist utopia, amateur-radio enthusiasm, Special Period Cubanness, political paranoia, fantasy, and love, Daranas Serrano’s hilarious and often absurd Sergio and Sergei asks if we’re all not possibly the butt of some colossal cosmic joke.

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