Critic: La Obra del Siglo/ The Project of the Century

Critic: La Obra del Siglo/ The Project of the Century

Dir. Carlos Quintela

Official Selection International Feature: Cuba

La obraThe Richter Scale says: There’s nothing more infuriating than an unrealized future. It’s frustrating to remember that there was once was a promise that things were going to be one way and now, years later, all you can see is how that promise was broken. Carlos Quintela tells the story of how Cuba was once going to be the Nuclear Center of the Soviet Union in the Caribbean and how that island was going to provide a point of encounter for the fight against capitalism. It was the Project of the Century, but the project got out of their hands and before they could figure out how to move forward with it, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union came apart, leaving this thing that was going to be the “Nuclear City” as an unfulfilled promise.

Otto and Rafael, a father and a son, live under the melancholic shadow of this broken promise in a city that no longer seems to have a purpose other than bringing in a mosquito plague. Rafael, the son, was an engineer trained by the revolution, but now he lives with his father, an old man who won’t stop reminding him of everything they will never get back. One day Leo, Rafael’s son, arrives with his own sorrow: he just ended a relationship and the only way he expresses himself is through his tattoos, an ancient cell phone and by masturbating. Through these three men, the filmmaker explores masculinity and what happens when a man feels defenseless towards life: he’ll try and prove his worth to the world any way he can.

La obra1Like many independent filmmakers, Quintela chose to film this in black-and-white, inserting archival footage of the construction of the Nuclear City, in color. The archival footage is in a small square in the middle of the screen as a symbol of how far away this dream feels now that it’s gone, while the scenes with Otto, Rafael and Leo fill the screen fully in a depressing and hopeless black-and-white. Not the most subtle of contrasts, but it works, because it’s a visual way to bring the audience into these men’s view that once they were part of a future that promised everything and now they’re in a present that promises nothing. Many in Mexico may identify.

This film screened yesterday at Bellas Artes and will screen at Guanajuato City on Friday, July 24th at 2:00 pm at the Auditorium at the University of Guanajuato.

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