Guantanamera, released in 1995, is the last film by Tom¯s Alea Gutierrez, a.k.a. Titon, Cuba's most celebrated director since the 1959 Revolution. As with Alea's 1993 film Strawberry and Chocolate, it was co-directed by Juan Carlos Tabfo who also collaborated on the writing of the screenplay. Both works mark a new critical phase in the history of Cuban cinema in so far as they take a much more irreverent approach to the island's social and political problems than state-produced films of previous years.
The title of this on-the-road romantic comedy is also the title of a world famous Cuban song. Its unforgettable notes accompany the narrative, although its lyrics have been cleverly changed to fit the plot.
The film starts when Yoyita, a now acclaimed diva,
returns from Havana to her home town of Guantanamo to attend an official ceremony in her honor and dies soon after in the arms of the once beloved Candido, an old saxophone player. Yoyita's niece Gina, a former university professor a bit too nonconformist for the regime, travels back to the capital with her aunt's corpse and faithful Candido. They are joined by her husband Adolfo, a frustrated government official who is testing his new and, supposedly, more efficient approach to funerary transportation.
During the westward trip, the procession's path crosses that of Mariano, a chivalrous truck driver who had fallen in love with Gina when he was her student. A tentative romance starts between the two as sexy Gina becomes more and more doubtful about her marriage.
Guantamanera is a reflection, both amusing and earnest, on love and death. Both themes are intertwined from beginning to end of the story in a fluid, effortless manner. As such, the film is also a celebration of the Cuban character, of its sensuality, of its existential flexibility and of its overall joie-de-vivre. The ghost of death, symbolized by a little girl whom only Candido can see, on and off, throu...