JUAN OF THE DEAD: ZOMBIES FOR SOCIAL CHANGE IN CUBA
The 2012 LA Film Fest may be over, but our guest bloggers aren’t done talking about all the movies they’ve seen! This post is from guest blogger Jim Lichacz, who brings his own commentary to the comedic zombie film, Juan of the Dead:
There was a sold out audience for the third screening of Juan of the Dead, part of the Beyond series at the 2012 LA Film Fest. This was one of seven films that added an extra screening in order to meet attendees’ ravenous demand. Based on questions following the screening, that audience seemed to be a mix of zombie genre fans and people with an interest in Cuba.
The film follows the plight of a group of modern day Havana residents as they work to survive a zombie invasion of their city. The resourceful group must get through their own interpersonal relationship issues while fighting what the official media calls “dissidents” and “iconoclasts.”
From the hit AMC series Walking Dead to the independently-produced podcast We’re Alive, there’s a lot of interest in the zombie genre these days. With social anxiety about everything from a shaky economy to global pandemics, such an interest is not surprising. Even the CDC has noticed, judging from their recent Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness campaign.
The zombie genre provided writer/director Alejandro Brugués with a rich language to explore the complicated structure of one of the last Communist-styled Socialist countries. Answering the final question of the midnight Q&A, Brugués stated that following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Cubans who benefited from that alliance had their world turned upside down and found their lives dramatically changed—much like a zombie invasion. Throughout the highly comedic film, social commentary is made about Cuban society in a sly manner.
For Brugués—who exudes the same riotous brand of humor in person that he used to great effect in the film—this combination of genre and commentary was a perfect match: “I could do two things at once: complain about the government, and do a zombie film. What could be cooler than that?” He even reminded the audience to vote, because he is not able to in Cuba.
Last year the Festival screened Unfinished Spaces, a documentary about three architects commissioned to build the National Arts Schools as a symbol of the goals of the then flourishing Cuban Revolution. Like the revolution’s original lofty ideals, the school was abandoned due to changes in government priorities. With Juan of the Dead, the Festival shares another chapter from Cuba’s fascinating history, this time with a satirical look at the country left behind in the revolution’s wake.
As the heroes in the story make their final escape from the zombies and consider their options, their leader comments that whatever choice they make the Imperialists will get them in the end. Let’s hope they don’t get us all.
—by Jim Lichacz for Film Independent
Check out highlights from the Q&A with writer/director Alejandro Brugués:
June 29th, 2012 • No Comments