Dirs: Pablo Briones, Sean Clark, Jace Freeman | Writer: Pablo Briones | Docudrama: 89′
This freewheeling cinema vérité portrait of Cuban boyhood soft pedals around the stamping ground of two fresh-faced youngsters in the sultry side-streets and playgrounds of Pueblo Textil. Exotic birds croon and dogs bark but the boys chatter has no urgency as they hand out together and idly shoot the breeze.
Free from mobile phones, computers and even football play is important for heathy brain development. And Baracoa serves as a refreshing look at how kids use their creativity while experimenting and developing their imagination, physical and emotional dexterity. Language develops as they learn to engage and interact with each other in the world around them, letting their minds run free. Sometimes their banter is full of insults: “you actually look like a lizard” says Antuán. “You actually shaved your legs, like faggots do” retorts Leonel. Clearly they have a rich inner life and are not as innocent as they look. And these amusing interludes and Jace Freeman’s fluid camerawork and limpid visuals make this an enjoyable watch for any audience.
Antuán and Leonel are roughly the same age, 13. Lithe and tanned by sunny days in the Cuban outdoors, to our sophisticated eyes they seem much younger. Antuán is the dreamer and Leonel his loyal sidekick. They discover a dead blackbird, and experiment with fire, quite literally – in the abandoned ruins of a disused swimming pool, dreaming of a day on the beach, but not quite sure how to get there. Theirs is a simple, impoverished life – but rich in adventures and wonder. And infinitely preferable to some rain-soaked gaming arcade in the Northern hemisphere. At the end of the summer Antuán will move to Havana, so these holidays may be the last they spend together. MT
BERLINALE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | GENERATION 2019 | 7-17 FEBRUARY 2019