Between Kisses and Tears

Entre besos y Lágrimas

Arturo Santana, between Kisses and Tears.

Twenty-two years behind the cameras and the production of two hundred audiovisuals — video clips, documentary films and spots – have not been enough for Arturo Santana.

The author of acknowledged and awarded Cuban videos – outstanding among them Cruzando destinos (Crossing Fates) and Papeles (Papers) by singers-songwriters Pancho Cespedes and Polito Ibanez, as well as Marginales punto com (Marginals dot com, by Aceituna sin Hueso group – has finished his first fiction short: Besos y lágrimas. Following the path of other acclaimed video clip artists like Pavel Giroud and Alfredo Ureta, Santana intends to add some projects of this type to his vast career. The short film Besos y lágrimas is only the first of them.

Santana talked with Cubanow about this work:

Cubanow(CN): Kisses and tears is your first experience in fiction. How did the idea for the plot come? Do you think there was a marked difference between the shooting of this work and those of former ones?

Arturo Santana(AS): This short film is part of a project for several stories which all take place at the same moment, during an eclipse. But fate decided to have it shot solo. We still have to see if the project of the eclipse takes shape and we can connect this short with the original idea. Up to now, it already exists and I love the result. I felt no difference at all when making it in spite of this being an entirely new genre for me. However, some procedures demanded a different formal treatment, a different way of focusing on them while carrying them out.

CN: Cuban audiovisuals tend to stereotype the way VIH/AIDS affects and influences young people. Why do you approach this in a different way in your film, in an HIV positive older marriage?

AS: One of the characters offers the answer: “This is an issue for everyone.” I also wanted to question how pain was felt in later years, in a situation as the one we show in the film, although motives at times are very similar at every age. A mature person reacts before a problem in a different way an adolescent or a youngster does. Perhaps an adult shows greater awareness at what is unavoidable. The much less vital experience of youngsters does not allow them to achieve this awareness and they look for other answers, even in what they have not yet lived. They both ask themselves why, but in different ways. In Kisses and tears, HIV is also a provocation to attempt a human dialogue encompassing racism, war, solitude and betrayal.

CN: From the aesthetic point of view, the film has a very individual visualization, especially because of the locations chosen and the photographic treatment. What referent can we think about? What films or directors influenced you?

AS: Kisses and tears has some minimalist referents. I am not only thinking in the mise-en-scène, but also in the sound, the contained performances of the actors, the tempo – at times contemplative – and the discourse almost without music. The origins of the story are minimalist too. The thing is to look into common people with a perhaps dysfunctional family. These individuals, however, want to save themselves by searching into the small things they still have and they find conciliation. This requires a specific way to shoot, to interconnect images, sounds and silences.

CN: Many of the actors are very well known in Cuban screens. Why did you choose them and how was the work with them?

A.S: I had five splendid actors. I never thought on having others. I think each of them vibrated in a different chord, but without striving away of what I always wanted: contention, limit. These elements save Kisses and tears from being a cold, distant, snob film. I think that we are always before a hundred percent present-day Cuban characters with conflicts that touch us deeply. It was lucky to have them before my camera. They are: Eman Xor Ona, Mayelin Barquinero, Serafin Garcia, Nieves Riovalle and Cheryl Zaldivar.

CN: What can you say about the shooting team?

AS: I had Angel Alderete, whom I humanly and professionally admire, in photography direction and Pedro Suarez was the editor. He imparted a very delicate tempo on the film. Iosmay DVelver was in charge of the black and white correction we were striving for while Jorge Aragon Jr. composed the music. Sound design was by Esteban Vazquez and in production I had Vania Valdes and Reimer Delgado. All of them made up an excellent team which always understood me.

CN: You are considered one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the world of Cuban video clips and your work in that field has been repeatedly awarded. What did this experience contribute in a work like this one?

AS: Clips and advertising have given me experience enough to handle expressive and production language. This has always been absolute freedom for me, a guideline to try not to be confused. If I had not shot musical videos, I would never have known the importance of time in a narration, no matter which.

CN: Why Kisses and tears?

AS: Let’s say it is the title of a melodrama or of a Havana haiku… Finally, it is the film that the two women who meet by mere chance on a roof go to see. You may take it as an intertextual game.

CN: Which do you consider the greatest challenges in this film?

AS: Undoubtedly, it was making it. To shoot in Havana is always an act of infinite fate. Why this is the case is not relevant, as you know.

AS: I have several projects here and there. Two shorts are quite close. It seems one of them, part of a film with seven Latin American stories, will very soon enter into production. I also plan to shoot a feature film, Silicona (Silicone), which is included in the plans of ICAIC (the Cuban Institute of Film Art and Industry). I am also very attracted to one entitled Bailando con Margot (Dancing with Margot), very close to black cinema, full of capos and boxers… Well, we’ll see…

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