A low-budget splatterfest may be responsible for shifting Cuba's cinematic dialogue and breaking down the political barriers of its regime. A screening of Alejandro Brugés' Juan of the Dead
(Juan de los Muertos
) drew the country's residents in large numbers, requiring police presence and additional screenings to accommodate the swelling crowd of 1,300.
"There are openings. The walls around what you can and can’t say are starting to crumble. There’s an irreverence in the movie that reflects the wider irreverence felt by a lot of young people," said one attendee. It's somewhat a shock that the satirical zombie flick wasn't censored, since it pokes at everything from Fidel Castro to the government's media intervention. The use of zombies itself suggests something far darker than mere flenchmunching antics. "Cuban reality is so incredible that there are things in the movie that seem like you made them up, but in fact they are based on truth. I just put zombies in the scenario, instead of real people” said Brugués, the Argentina director who was raised in Cuba.
Juan of the Dead
takes place 50 years after the Cuban Revolution (around 2009). Zombies have taken over the island, with accusations pointed at the United States government. It's up to one slacker to free the people and take back the island. You can read our review of the film here
to get the full skinny.
While the country's indie film scene explodes, the pulse of Cuban cinema beats strong and loud — with a younger group of filmmakers who were raised in a post-Soviet era shining a spotlight on their homeland's troubled past and present-day struggles. With minimal intervention from the state becoming an ostensible possibility, there's a never before seen honesty opening up a new dialogue amongst Cuban audiences.