Conduct / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on February 22, 2014
If an imaginary group of Cubans, isolated from all information since
1984, had been shown the movie Conduct today to bring them up to date on
reality, they’d have escaped the theater sure that the film falsified
the situation: that it was trying to show a pessimistic and
counterrevolutionary version of their country.
But that’s not how the people reacted coming out of the theaters, wiping
away their tears, their hands red from so much clapping. Especially
those Havanans who saw projected on the screen the reality that hits
them: their own neighborhood in ruins, the alcoholic neighbor with a
child practically abandoned, the lack of ethical values, the police
corruption, the discrimination against Cubans from other provinces, the
physical misery on every corner, the moral misery in every opportunist.
Fortunately Carmela remained, the retirement-age teacher who, despite
having seen her children and grandchildren emigrate, preferred to remain
alone on the island, and in her classroom “as long as I can climb the
stairs,” because she’s convinced she has the strength to help those kids
in need of love and understanding.
Splendid cinematography and excellent editing support a script whose
author, Ernesto Daranas, also served as director. Nowhere do the
hackneyed topics of Cuban cinema appear: the mockery, the jokes with
double meanings, the rain, folkloric touches, sexual exhibitionism and
But the biggest absence in Conduct is “the New Man,” whom those
hypothetical Cubans, asleep or in a coma, conceived even up to the
mid-’80s and who they would have expected to see incarnated in this work
bringing them up-to-date. The children that those imaginary viewers
would insist on finding in the film would be educated children and not
those foul-mouthed coarse bullies; the schools would be equipped with
laboratories and the houses would appear comfortable and safe.
There would be no dog fights, nor strung out women prostitutes, much
less the drama of Carmela facing an attempt to fire her for protecting a
student threatened with being sent to a reform school for defending a
girl who dared — let’s hear it for audacity! — to place an image of
Cuba’s patron saint on the wall of a classroom.
The producers didn’t create an artificial space in the studio in the
style of The Truman Show, nor was there some antique store where they
found the school desks and blackboards, nor did they make a citadel out
of cardboard. The director didn’t have to carefully teach the actors —
kids, teenagers or elderly — linguistic models and formulas far from
their own personal experiences. Perhaps it was because of this that the
audience, after long lines to get into the theaters where Conduct is
showing, so identified with it, felt so excited. Because of this and
because those present in the movie theaters haven’t spent the last 30
years sleeping, but rather starring in this tragedy.
21 February 2014
Source: Conduct / Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba –