Juan Carlos Tabío, the filmmaker who reflected Cuba from humor

Havana, Jan 18 (EFE) .- The reunion of a young love in the middle of a funeral procession, the frustrated dream of moving to elegant neighborhoods of Vedado or the troubles over the claim of a millionaire inheritance sealed part of the stories of the director of Cuban cinema Juan Carlos Tabío, who died this Monday in Havana.

Tabío, born in 1943 in Havana, was discovered by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea – affectionately called “Titón” in Cuba -, another of the great directors of contemporary Cuban cinematography, and together they reflected the harsh reality of their country, marked by the crisis generated after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The filmmaker used comedy to narrate the Cuba of the so-called “Special Period”, and together with “Titón” he co-directed the famous “Fresa y Chocolate” (1993, nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film), which was about friendship. between a young communist (David) and a homosexual intellectual (Diego), a taboo subject for island society at that time.

Two years later came “Guantanamera”, a black humor film that narrates the adventures in the transfer of a deceased from the eastern province of Guantánamo to Havana, and the tangles of a bureaucratic official and his “savings” plan for the processions funerals, as well as the reunion of a young love.


Her first film, “Se Permuta” (1985), not only gave her the opportunity to show the star Rosita Fornés in her best role as an actress, but also drew a Cuba that was already feeling the effects of the crisis with a hard impact on the housing sector or public transport.

In 1988 he told in “Plaff or too much fear of life” the story of a woman (masterfully played by Daisy Granados) who rejects her son’s wife and even a lover of hers, and begins to throw eggs against the walls of your own home.

In the last year of the 20th century, he directed “Lista de Espera”, a film that followed its thematic line of mixing drama with humor and romanticism with a touch of reality, by recounting the hysteria and almost collective despair of passengers stranded in a bus terminal from a town in central Cuba.

After that experience, he returned to writing with four hands with the writer Arturo Arango in 2008 in “The horn of plenty.” The co-production between the Spanish production company Tornasol Films and the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) addressed the uproar left in the residents of Yaragüey, a small imaginary town in the interior of Cuba, the news of a millionaire inheritance that perhaps neither existed.


Tabío once said that he got involved in the seventh art “due to a stroke of luck”, but “his lucky day” was really when Titón called him to co-direct “Fresa y Chocolate”, the film version of the story “El lobo, the forest and the new man “by Cuban writer Senel Paz.

His fortune or chance of fate – if you like – was sealed in that film in the mythical phrase: “Uy, today is my lucky day!”, Pronounced by Diego when he meets David in the well-known Havana ice cream parlor “Coppelia”.

From his origins in 1961 at the ICAIC as a production and direction assistant, he accumulated a recognized professional career that included more than 30 documentaries or his role as a script and directing teacher at the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television, according to the biography published on the Cuban cinema website Cubacine.

The work of Tabío, who won the National Film Award in 2014, “is part of the transcendent history of Cuban cinema,” the ICAIC highlighted today on its Twitter account.

Tabío left his mark on contemporary cinematography thanks to films that, through humor and intelligence, showed what it is like to live on the Caribbean island.

Something that he ratified in 2008, when he told Efe in an interview: “It’s not that I come back with humor, it’s that I’ve never gotten out of it.”

Laura Becquer


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