Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s and Juan Carlos Tabío’s latest work, Guantanamera, follows the international success of their Strawberry and Chocolate and is a beautifully made and charming romantic satire. Chronicling the travails of present-day Cuban life, it is at once both entertaining and full of knife-edged wit as it tells the story of a bureaucrat, Adolfo, and his wife, Georgina.

Adolfo proposes to deal with the chronic lack of gasoline and the problems that shortages cause for undertakers of the country by suggesting that all gasoline coupons be pooled and all the various townships work together in transporting the dead to their final resting place. This seems to be a simple solution, but it is one that eventually reveals all the difficulties and realities of bureaucracy and socialism in a nation pushed to the limit. Meanwhile, his wife’s Aunt Yoyita returns to Guantánamo, her birthplace, after an illustrious singing career to be reunited with her long-separated young love, Candido. Shortly after seeing him, she succumbs to age and sudden stress and dies in his arms, whereupon Adolfo can now test his new plan by transporting her body back to Havana. Georgina accompanies her husband and Candido with the body, and so begins a modest journey which transforms their lives.

Richly drawn characters, complete with some terrific performances, particularly by Mirtha Ibarra and Jorge Perugorria, work to combine social and political insight with a romantic touch that strikes a responsive chord in all of us. Alea’s and Tabío’s comedic style is at times broadly hilarious and at others more subtle and refined, but it is consistently very skillfully executed. In offering a perspective of their homeland that is all too rare, they humanize a nation which is too often demonized. Guantanamera is truly a film whose themes and memories evoke both a laugh and a tear.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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