“Santa and Andres”, directed by Carlos Lechuga (based on a story by Eliseo Altunaga), is a bizarre and oddly intimate drama with a stark political warning: communism is deeply hostile to homosexuality and to independent speech.
The setup sounds unpretentious and unpromising. In 1983 in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, a revolutionary peasant girl (Lola Amores) is assigned to watch an exiled gay writer Andres (Eduardo Martinez) in a remote hut conveniently, it turns out, in both mountains and near the shore. Some public event is supposed to go on nearby.
The film starts out in Spanish with a summary of Castro’s purges not only of gay people but of intellectuals in general. One logically wonders, if his regime is so vulnerable to the books or articles of a few writers, why isn’t that an admission of weakness and illegitimacy? But of course, the point of this kind of authoritarian is to force everyone to be the same so that everyone has an equal chance to survive, or so that no one can stand off at a distance and benefit from the labor of others. By that kind of thinking, I wouldn’t be allowed to write and publish on my own without demonstrating some kind of community engagement. Long term, I see this idea as a real threat today.
We can add a perspective with modern post-Communist Russia, where Putin fears that open speech accepting homosexuality will allow less competitive males to believe there is no point in having their own children and families, in a country with an underpopulation problem and demographic winter.
Andres claims he hasn’t written a word in years, and was banished after writing a book (like my “do ask do tell”) that the government didn’t like. His mute nephew-boyfriend (?) (Cesar Dominguez), after putting him in a nearby infirmary with a stab wound, turns him in to authorities for having started a ew book. Andres denies it. The authorities will come to search his house and throw eggs on him for being queer and, therefore, counter-revolutionary.
So, will any redeeming chemistry come in his relationship with Santa? Is the new book real? Why are authorities so concerned about a half-finished handwritten manuscript (rather like my 1969 effort “The Proles” during the time I was in the Army)?
The end reminds me of the Mariel Boatlift (which occurred 3 years before), which resulted in calls for personal hosting of Cuban refugees by the LGBT community in southern cities in late 1980, well before the AIDS crisis would become known.
The film makes Castro’s Cuba look bad, approaching Kim Jong Un’s North Korea (which makes much more show today, but Castro gave us the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962).
The film was actually shot in Colombia.
A good comparison might be “Before Night Falls” (2000), by Julian Schnabel, with Xavier Bardem as Cuban poet and novelist Reynaldo Arenas (Fine Line Features) (legacy review).
Small business in Havana (wiki)
Mariel Boatlift refugee center in Miami (wiki)
|Name:||“Santa & Andres“|
|Director, writer:||Carlos Lechuga, Eliseo Altunaga (story)|
|Format:||1.85:1 in Spanish, subtitles|
|When and how viewed:||sample review DVD from distributor, 2017/12/23|
|Companies:||Breaking Glass Pictures|
(Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 8 PM EST)