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Volume 18, Number 4
April 30, 2012

Panama Spanish Schools in Bocas del Toro and in Boquete, by the beach and in the mountains

culture

Also in this section:
Children's books: Patricia M. Markun (1925-2012)
The Theatre Guild's Reservoir Dogs
Panama's first International Film Festival a big success
Sparky the Wonder Dog
The Maharishi's bad karma in Houston
The Opera's coming: Puccini's Tosca
Reggae: Capleton coming to Amador
Miramientos: Ana Elena Garuz's abstracts at ArteConsult
International Jazz Day, the United Nations concerts
Film, Juan of the Dead defends Cuba from a zombie infestation
Gerald Nicosia on Kerouac and the Beats
Latin American architecture: Brasilia
Folk music's westward drift
Film, The Carbon Rush
Paintings by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: The Latin American Way of the Cross

The Panama News uses its Facebook Page as an extension of this website, and that page has a far more extensive and up-to-date listing of events, particularly bands that will be playing in Panama, than this culture section does.



Juan of the Dead
a movie review by Eric Jackson

Juan de los Muertos
Cuban horror and satire 2011
Spanish with English subtitles
directed by Alejandro Brugués
starring Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro, Andres Perrugoría, Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez 

What a fun flick! It drew a good crowd to the new amphitheater in the Casco Viejo, at the end of where the Terraplen used to be. I could digress into an urban design diatribe but I won't, but I will say that there are a few simple things that can be done to make it a better outdoor film venue, such as making one light post removable or at least blacking out one side of the streetlight behind it so as to get rid of some shadows. But forget that, and suspend all sorts of "Hollywood standards" snobbery about how real the gore should look and how a Cuban actor playing an American speaking English didn't get the accent just right. This is an important film on several different levels.

This is the tale of Juan, an alcoholic veteran of the Angola War who gets by with a little bit of fishing, a little bit of petty crime and this and that hustle. His decadence is not bourgeois, but he neither has a regular job nor sports the tattoos to prove full membership in the lumpenproletariat. When while fishing he accidentally becomes one of the first to discover what was to become a full-scale zombie invasion of Cuba. He sees it as an opportunity --- a way to get rich, a way to impress his foxy estranged daughter who is visiting from exile, a way to become a leader and a hero. Let me not give away the plot, but it's hilarious.

So, how much freedom of expression is there in Cuba? Inferences can be drawn from this movie. It portrays the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution as one of the less desirable and less popular sets of neighbors. It absolutely savages the state-controlled news media. It mocks Communist Party propaganda. It tells jokes about socialism and about Fidel Castro. Without dwelling on them, it fleetingly acknowledges disparities in wealth and the proliferation of prostitution in Cuba. We didn't see much of that in Cuban cinema before. But if you want to do a thorough political analysis, you will notice certain lines uncrossed. And if you take the movie and Juan's character as a whole, you will notice that alone among his little crowd of the sort of people historically vulnerable to Cuba's social parasitism laws, at the bottom line he's a Cuban patriot.

As the characters in the anti-zombie force that Juan assembles include a gay couple, we get to see some of contemporary Cuba's attitudes about homosexuals. Their existence is acknowledged without stern denunciations, but with some stereotypes that can get pretty obnoxious. This is something that comes not particularly from the party, but from a homophobic Cuban society. If you take an honest and informed look at the history of how gay people were purged from the ranks of Cuban teachers and artists --- including from the Cuban Institute of Cinema Art and Industry --- and were at some points sent to "rehabilitation" camps, you should recognize a conflict between freedom and democracy. Cuba's Communist Party has historically reflected the prejudices, even though it has also always had people who object to such hatreds. This movie's jokes based on gay stereotypes, with gay characters who don't go any deeper than the stereotypes, also reflect attitudes found in Cuban society.

Ah, but this is, after all, a zombie flick, and one of the better ones at that. American zombie flicks, which on the whole are far less clever and rely far more heavily on shock and gore, never get much social or political analysis from reviewers in the States.

Go see Juan de los Muertos if you can, and depending on your level of sophistication about many things, see the different levels on which this movie was made. Despite any and all flaws, it's a masterpiece.


Director, leading lady and producer bask in the limelight in Panama
















Also in this section:
Children's books: Patricia M. Markun (1925-2012)
The Theatre Guild's Reservoir Dogs
Panama's first International Film Festival a big success
Sparky the Wonder Dog
The Maharishi's bad karma in Houston
The Opera's coming: Puccini's Tosca
Reggae: Capleton coming to Amador
Miramientos: Ana Elena Garuz's abstracts at ArteConsult
International Jazz Day, the United Nations concerts
Film, Juan of the Dead defends Cuba from a zombie infestation
Gerald Nicosia on Kerouac and the Beats
Latin American architecture: Brasilia
Folk music's westward drift
Film, The Carbon Rush
Paintings by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: The Latin American Way of the Cross


The Panama News uses its Facebook Page as an extension of this website, and that page has a far more extensive and up-to-date listing of events, particularly bands that will be playing in Panama, than this culture section does.

Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine



The Panama News Editors
Editor & Publisher - Eric Jackson
Contributing Editor - Silvio Sirias
Contributing Editor - José F. Ponce
Copy Editor - Sue Hindman (1944-2010)

© 2012 by Eric Jackson
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