17 Days, 17 Years
by Camilo Cortés
Some years ago, I attended a specialization course in Film Post Production at the Escuela Internacional de Cine de San Antonio de Los Baños in Cuba. Among the privileges of being in a place where you could breathe cinema days and nights, it was meeting the editor of one of the most revealing films from our film and ‘Tropical’ identity. This is not other than ‘Memories of Underdevelopment’ (1968). Time has made me forget his name but not his face, aged and especially these words: “Sergio was right”.
‘Memories of Underdevelopment,’ Sergio is its main character. An aspirant writer who decides to stay on the island, despite his parents, wife and friends abandoned him to go to Miami. A complex feature film that reviews the social changes that occurred on the island with the arrival of the revolution. Always situated from the perspective of Sergio about the everyday life of the island. One of those people, that since then began to wander and continue wandering around waiting for the promised wonders. Sergio predicts, in a sort of monolog, all the consequences of the ‘first socialist revolution in America’, and it was only 1968.
Earlier this year, because I am passionate of inquiring cinema, I discovered the last film of the French director Laurent Cantet (France,1961), ‘Return to Ithaca’ (2013).’ The movie is a part of ‘The story of my life’ by Leonardo Padura (Cuba, 1955) Source of inspiration for writing the story of five Cuban friends, who an afternoon meets in a terrace of Havana. They meet to welcome one of them who decided to leave and now will spend a few days visiting the island. Five friends joined by forty years of friendship. Five friends that between music and alcohol, shortly reveal those broken dreams and what they lost, or left to lose, out of fear or simply for believing.
A month ago, the Editorial Tusquets published ‘Return to Ithaca’. Padura novel the script of the film on that Book. In a paragraph of his preface, the director makes a clear mention of the days he took to shoot it, exactly 17. That number made me say; 17 like the years of the ‘Chavismo.’ It took me on those days where I have discovered in conversations with friends devastating fragments of the protagonists’ conversations in Back to Ithaka,’ the words predicted by Sergio in that film of 1968, from which that five friends of the 2013 film could not run away. Those words from which I decided to escape, because like Amadeo, one of the five, I lost the fear.