Theater / Film
Quiet Moments, Humor Follow Women Through Havana in ‘Venecia’
When it comes to Cuban film, it is very easy for wide sweeping shots of Havana’s decaying beauty to steal the show. Not the case in the 2014 Cuban film, Venecia, in Spanish with English subtitles, currently showing at the Tower Theater in Little Havana. Director Kiki Álvarez zooms in on the lives of three women in their twenties, laying bare their humor, vulnerability and secret frustrations. Co-written by Álvarez with Claudia Muñiz, who plays Violeta, a central character in the movie, Venecia is refreshing in its insistence on personalities over politics. Álvarez accomplishes this by wielding an inquisitive camera that follows these women to some of their darkest places. Tight angles and lingering close-up shots emphasize the women’s dialogues without stylizing them.
Three beauticians, the aforementioned Violeta, Mayelín (Marianela Pupo) and Monica (Maribel García Garzón), go out on the town to celebrate their first paycheck. As the night unravels, each women strays from the group to explore her own shifting, and at times, treacherous sense of self. Álvarez’s camera unceremoniously slinks through Havana’s back streets, past cafeterias, old people, and dilapidated buildings. He follows the women closely without interfering. Havana’s nightlife as its depicted in Venecia is filled with winding dark hallways, a diabolical clown DJ, and crowds of disaffected youth swaying to electronic music.
Venecia reflects a Havana where twenty-somethings follow each moment to the next with no hyperawareness of economic hardships or political strife. Working with tight angles and dramatic close-up shots of the women against the backdrop of non-descript locales allows these talented actresses to take center stage and reveal their vulnerabilities so slowly it’s like watching a series of gut-wrenching portraits. Venecia is made up of so many quiet moments, when hidden aspects of each woman’s life is revealed, it feels more like a shift in mood than a revelation. That said, the film contains its fair share of drama and each actress delivers her character’s crescendo powerfully.
I appreciate this film’s quiet moments, humor and lack of resolution. The idea of “Venecia,” the name the trio would give their own salon if they were owners, vanishes as quickly as it appears, which is appropriate to their age and economic circumstances. We could find this trio in any part of the world, dreaming, suffering, and above all, forming friendships that will make each woman’s individual journey all the richer.
Venecia premiered in the US in 2015 as an Official Selection of the Miami International Film Festival. It is the first crowd-funded Cuban film. Joined by Espeuelos Oscuros and Vestido de Novia, it is part of the Cuban Contemporary Summer Film Series.
‘Venecia’ runs through July 21 at the Tower Theater, 1508 S.W. 8th St., Little Havana. Info and show times, towertheatermiami.com, 305-237-2463.