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In ?The Sugar Curtain,? Camila Guzm?n Urz?a (the daughter of the filmmaker Patricio Guzm?n) returns to Cuba to confront the possibility of a misremembered past. Armed with a hand-held camera and idyllic childhood memories, Ms. Guzm?n Urz?a, a Chilean-born filmmaker who arrived in Cuba in 1973 at the age of 2 and left in 1990, strives to align her rosy recollections with the deprivation and decay of modern Havana.
?We didn?t feel like a Soviet satellite,? she says, remembering a ?paradise? free of unemployment, religion, advertising or materialism. Yet as she reconnects with the few friends who remain and listens to their part-wistful, part-bitter reminiscences of a time filled with handsome martyrs and endless possibilities, a portrait emerges that?s less of a paradise lost than of a complex, unsustainable dream.
Opening and closing with scenes of happy schoolchildren, ?The Sugar Curtain? is a pensive valentine to literacy programs and childhood idealism left in the ashes of broken families and an economically bifurcated society. ?Only the slogans remain,? mourns Ms. Guzm?n Urz?a, whose deliberately raw technique ? a distracted camera that often captures its own image in mirrors and shadows ? underscores her reluctant tilt toward disillusion. ?I had idealized something that maybe never was,? she concludes, though neither she nor her film seem completely convinced.
Extract from ICARUS review. To read the full review at The Sugar?Curtain – A Film by Camila Guzm?n Urz?a
In this revealing autobiographical portrait, the filmmaker, who was born in Santiago de Chile in 1971 but after the 1973 coup moved with her family to Cuba, returns to Havana to reflect on her childhood and adolescence during the “golden years” of the Cuban Revolution.
Growing up during the Seventies and Eighties, she recalls, Cuba seemed like a paradise, where the state provided everything-education, healthcare, housing, work-and she was part of an idealistic generation of young “Pioneers” enthusiastically dedicated to building a new society. Camila left Cuba in 1990, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union-which for decades had assured the island nation’s economic survival-and the beginning of the “Special Period,” which by the mid-Nineties saw the Cuban economy in ruins.
In THE SUGAR CURTAIN, Camila revisits her elementary school, favorite gathering places and other sites of her childhood, and reminiscences about that period with former classmates, who also discuss their life in Cuba today, when they have had to adapt to food rationing and many other social and personal privations. In Cuba today, many have to take extra or illegal jobs in order to survive.
Although Camila and her former classmates have today largely become disillusioned because of the failure of the Revolution to deliver on its long-delayed promises, they remain nostalgic about a meaningful time in their lives and in the lives of their parents, the Revolution’s first generation. THE SUGAR CURTAIN blends these alternately fond and disenchanted reminiscences with historical footage and photos, views of the sad remnants of deserted or decaying buildings in Havana, and scenes of the boisterous vitality of today’s Cuban schoolchildren.
As an autobiographical documentary highlighting the contrasting fortunes of the Cuban Revolution over the last two decades, THE SUGAR CURTAIN-which concludes with a sad roll call of Camila’s former classmates who have left Cuba to live in other countries-offers a provocative historical perspective on one of the most significant turning points in 20th-century world history.
“A sensitive, complex portrayal of the Cuban Revolution that captures the broad arc of the revolution?s history from the 1960s to the present.” ?The Americas
“Highly recommended… An endearing and intimate reverie… distinguished by its refusal to conclude or preach… it helps the audience contemplate mixed and multiple Cuban realities.”?Holly Ackerman, Educational Media Reviews Online
“Even-handed…uses the mirror of memory to underscore her personal sense of a lost paradise. Those on both sides of the great Cuba divide should find food for thought in these sober, realistic reflections.”?Variety
“Personal and intimate…A classic portrait of a dream gone wrong.”?Daily Screen”Recaptures dreams, fantasies and histories of the past.”?B. Ruby Rich, Toronto International Film Festival
“Both love story and memory of underdevelopment, THE SUGAR CURTAIN illuminates, with great sobriety and reverence, the paradox of a nation as steeped in tradition as it is in hypocrisy.”?The Village Voice
“For those who’ve never seen Cuba up close, THE SUGAR CURTAIN offers an astonishing glimpse of the culture, one that’s devoid of both the glamour and the manipulations of mainstream media. But even for those who feel they know the island well, it’s a sobering statement that gives voices to what was to be the first generation of a new world.”?New York Press.