Life Is to Whistle (La Vida es silbar)

Institute History


Life Is to Whistle tells the stories of three end-of-the millennium Cubans, whose lives intersect on the Day of Santa Bárbara (the African saint Changó, ruler of destinies). Mariana, a ballerina, ponders breaking chastity vows she made to land the coveted role of Giselle; Julia has fainting spells each time she hears the word “sex,” and Elpidio, a musician, seduces a gringa tourist while Bebe, the narrator, takes us for a taxi ride along the streets of Havana.
In Life Is to Whistle, Fernando Perez displays the same cinematographic lyricism that won his first film, Madagascar, the Special Recognition in Latin American Cinema award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. Set to the music of Bola de Nieve and Benny Moré, the film dazzles us with a uniquely Cuban blend of absurdist humor and mystical realism.
Perez, who began his film career as assistant director to Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Santiago Alvarez, stands apart from his Cuban counterparts for his ability to portray human dilemmas in quirky, unpredictable ways. Perez gives the jaded lives of his characters a new significance through his whimsical, exuberant vision.
Life is to Whistle premiered at the Havana Film Festival in December 1998, where it received eight awards, including best film, best director, and best cinematography.

Fernando Perez, Director
Fernando Perez was born in Havana in 1944 and studied Spanish literature at the University of Havana. He began his film work in 1970 as assistant director to Tomàs Gutiérrez Alea and Manuel Octavio Gómez. From 1970 to 1982, he worked with Santiago Alvarez in the ICAIC Latin American Newsreel. His film Madagascar won the Special Recognition in Latin American Cinema Award at Sundance in 1996. Life Is to Whistle is his fourth feature and is a winner of the Sundance/NHK International Film Award.

— Patricia Boero

Screening Details

  • Section: World Cinema
  • Film Type: Dramatic Feature
  • Country: Cuba
  • Language: Spanish
  • Run Time: 110 min.

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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