Saved by the x-factor
Is there an x-factor in how we rate movies, where “x” stands for “exotic?”
If I go to myself, I think there is. I’m biased. If I know that a movie comes from a development country, where the film industry is young and small and the available resources are limited, I will measure it against a different standard than if it had been a Hollywood production.
Normally I cringe at badly written lines, worn-out tropes and amateur acting. But if it originates from an unusual place, it somehow compensates for other shortcomings.
As far as I can recall, Una Noche is the first Cuban movie I’ve seen. This is a film about three young Cubans who try to make an escape over the ocean. Most of the time is spent in Havana, where we see the struggles they face in life and what circumstances that make them end up on a raft. It suffers a little from all those problems I mentioned. How many times do we for instance have to see those canary birds in cages in movies about underprivileged people? We understand that they feel trapped, thank you very much, there’s no need to spell it out. And what cliché comes to mind if someone is going over the ocean on a raft? Yes. That one. And of course it happens.
But this is when the x-factor comes at rescue. I’ve never been in Havana and I loved to see what it’s like, for real. Not in the tourist brochures, but in the backyards, on the rooftops, in a dirty kitchen, in the home of an old prostitute, in a taekwondo dojo. The young actors are so-and-so objectively, but there is something about them that feels genuine, despite the delivery of some lines. Perhaps it’s their desire to get away from it all that shines through. Two of the leading actors decided to make their own escape from Cuba, seeking political asylum in US when they attended the premier of the film in New York. My knowledge of those circumstances adds another layer to the experience of the movie.
I don’t remember if the film was based on a true story or not and frankly it’s not important. The setting is real, the situation is real. People do those desperate attempts to escape to what they hope will be a better life. Their stories are worth telling, even in a slightly flawed manner. That’s the only way we’ll hear them, because it isn’t likely that Hollywood will go out of its way to do it. And if it would, I’m afraid that some of the local colour might get lost with the added layer of polish.
Una Noche (Lucy Mulloy 2012) My rating: 3/5