Breton is a Baby is directed by the same guy who did Vertical Love, and seeing the real Cuba in this documentary explains a lot about why that film is so mad.
Cuba is weird.
The director, Arturo Sotto, takes us on a tour of Cuba, and seeing it with his eyes, you understand why he is given to surrealism, because there is nowhere so surreal as Cuba.
When Sotto is commissioned to do a documentary with the remit and title of ‘The Cubans’, he is overwhelmed with the impossiblity of capturing the totality of Cuba’s people, a place where, as he puts, “the history always exceeded the geography”. So he throws it open to Cubans, and asks the public for their suggestions of what should be in it.
Man. Seriously. Even the stuff they reject, or not so much reject but don’t have time for, is bizarre as fuck. The famous revolutionary goat killed by police for spreading socialist material, by wearing slogans on its horns, and is now preserved in its own museum display to recognise its martyrdom. The legendary cow known as White Udder, whose milk production was so renowned they built a statue of her, and folk in the town hung up pictures of her in their house. The forensic anthropologist who has brought a mummified body home and gave it a glass coffin in the back room of his home, something he denies vehemently is the reason his wife left him. Dude, that house is so haunted.
So what follows is a road trip, taking you across Cuba, and meeting its people. Like the giant painting on the side of a mountain in Vilanes. And the dude who works there as a tour guide and has trained his massive ox to snore and hold its breath. Like the auld yin clamouring into a coffin with a wee window and being lowered into the ground for the annual celebration of the Burial of Pachencho in the village of Santiago de las Vegas. And being ritually resurrected by a mouthful of rum to the face. Like the city that was built around a nuclear power plant, and now it’s closed down, the nuclear physicists and engineers have become farmers in the shadows of the abandoned high flats. Like the Haitian-Cubans who hold voudou ceremonies, and the Pentecostal Cubans who hold church services, one being ridden by the lwa and one being ridden by the Holy Spirit. Like the adventures of the bell from Manzanillo, whose ring declared the start of the revolution, and that got kidnapped and handed to the old president before it was liberated and returned home. Like the young guy in the mountain who basically invented electricity for his neighbourhood. With no infrastructure, he decided to set up a bike and dynamo to power his radio, which became a wooden waterwheel tipped with tin cans, and eventually became a self-invented hydropower for 20-odd homes in this village in the mountains where there isn’t a mains plug for miles. Like the indigenous village on the mountaintop, still passing on the old ways to the few hundred people left.
Suddenly Sotto’s films don’t seem so barmy. Honestly such a strange and interesting road trip.
Cuba is weird.