What started out as the personal diary of the director trying to get close to his father, has blossomed into a documentary about overcoming political, personal and emotional struggles. He accomplishes this through interviews with his family and friends, reminiscing about his departure from Cuba in the 1980 Mariel boatlift. As a 14 year old, raised by his family in a loving, yet politically charged environment, Juan Carlos Zaldivar was brought up a full blown Communist, complete with the assurance that the United States was a place where children were forced to take drugs in schools and were killed if they went out at night.
Urged by his family to leave the country in a mass exodus sanctioned by Fidel Castro in 1980, the filmmaker takes us on a journey through the sights, sounds and emotions of a people divided, yet trying very hard to keep their values as they leave everything they've known for a new life, with high expectations and some disappointments. Stock footage obtained from the Cuban government by the filmmaker is co-mingled with his own footage, making for a cinematic portrait of past and present. We are also taken on a sojourn back to Cuba, as the filmmaker returns in 1998 to face his past, and share memories with old friends and family that he had since forgotten. But we find that no matter where we are, how far we go or how long we're gone, there is a bond that keeps us close. This film makes us understand the importance of family, and how destructive it is to forget that, as well as how closure and acceptance of things past enable us to develop forward into the future.
My only disappointment with the film - and this is minor since I find it sadly common - is subtitling which never quite expressed what was being said. I realize that some translations are lost simply because of the colloquial diversity in different languages, and some expressions cannot be appreciated unless heard in the original tongue. Yet, I found myself wishing secretly for just a moment that the audience were all Cubans, so they could appreciate dialogue that should only be heard the way it was expressed.
On a personal level, I was touched, coming from a similar set of circumstances, having left Cuba at a very young age. I can understand his need to go back and touch his roots as he searches for answers. Yet, this is not just a film for Cubans. It traverses boundaries and should resonate for everyone who has faced adversity of any sort.
Cultural Correspondent (Cuban Division)
Trash City Magazine