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The Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) has quickly become the international film community’s newest “must-attend” summer event. The festival offers a pleasurable and inviting atmosphere for filmmakers, press and film lovers. It serves to not only develop an understanding and appreciation of the art of cinema and filmmaking, but also to inspire, educate and promote emerging local and regional filmmaking talent. This in turn has helped position Aruba as a center of art, culture and creativity, and as a viable destination for international film and commercial productions.
The AIFF was founded in 2010 by film producers Jonathan Vieira and Giuseppe Cioccarelli, with artistic direction by 30-year industry veteran Claudio Masenza. Previous editions of the festival have showcased a diverse array of critically acclaimed fiction films and documentaries from every corner of the globe, and have attracted such notable industry names as:
Hollywood leading man Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman)
Habana Eva, interview with Prakriti Maduro
Radiant Venezuelan actress Prakriti Maduro appeared at the second annual Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) for the screening of the Venezuelan/Cuban film HABANA EVA (2010). The morning after seeing the film, I spoke at length with Prakriti about her film with its many layers and her active acting career in general. We met at the Hyatt Grand, Aruba overlooking the stunning Edenic beaches below.
ME: So, how are you today? Are you enjoying the Aruba Film Festival?
PRA: Yes, I love it.
ME: Can you start out by telling us a bit about your film?
PRA: Well, it is a Venezuelan/Cuban co-production. And the whole story was filmed in Cuba. And my character is Eva.
ME: Can you share with us something about playing the role of Eva?
PRA: Yes, Eva is a Cuban girl, even though I’m a Venezuelan actress. It was a big challenge for me, with the accent and all. It’s a story of a girl who falls in love with two guys, the Cuban and a foreigner so she has to decide. Yes, in a metaphoric way it’s talking about Cuba.
ME: Were there some influences of magical realism in the film with the best friend coming back to life after death and Eva seeing and conversing with the ghost.
PRA: Yes, I don’t know if that’s magical realism exactly but it looks very similar like that. You know, I have green skinned aunts and a chicken who is winning medals and a friend who dies who comes back as a ghost so it has that sense of humor similar to magical realism.
ME: Can you tell us what the film is about without giving too much of the plot away, of course.
PRA: Yes, well, the story is the process of how Eva grows up between those two loves and how she has to decide and she ends up breaking the rules in that city of Havana.
ME: And how do you think Cuban audiences will react to the film? Have Cuban audiences see the film yet?
PRA: Yes, I have been with the film in different film festivals. The reaction is very nice. In the Latin audience they will laugh and enjoy the sensuality of the film and sexuality. They will connect a lot with the sense of humor. For example, I was in Turkey with the film and their humor is different. I think that the film has a lot of layers and the people will understand the layers in the way that they want. You know, it’s very open, the appreciation.
ME: Well, there was a full theater last night so there’s a good buzz about the film.
PRA: Yes, I think that people were laughing a lot and people were enjoying so I was happy.
ME: And more than just the suggestion of Communism underlying the film it is also a very universal theme I felt, especially in very machismo countries which are most countries. I found the film very universal.
PRA: Yes, it is. I mean, it’s a girl growing in this situation you know. So, the communism is there. It’s Havana so it’s the environment. It’s part of the film. It’s the lead actress. And it’s about how to find their blue sky, their freedom. It’s her own way to find her liberty on those borders.
ME: My favorite part is when the two male lovers tell Eva she must choose then and now which of them she wants to be with and she responds: ‘No, you choose, either both of you or neither of you’, which silences them. That was a great line. What can you say about this strong female character in what is still very much a man’s world today?
PRA: Well, I think that women are learning to find our space and to defend that and fight for that. So, in this film it’s very expressive that process for the women. So, I feel a connection with that because I am quite feminist also.
ME: Do you feel there’s a greater metaphor with Eva’s character when she says, ‘either both of you or neither’? Do you think to a greater extent, Eva could represent Cuba itself? That Cuba in the future, for example, doesn’t have to be either communist or capitalist but maybe a synthesis? Or neither?
PRA: Yes, I agree with you that metaphor is inside the film because the Cuban boy (my Cuban boyfriend in the film) is representing communism. He is very solidary and he’s always there but he has limitations in the way that he looks at life. And the other guy (my Venezuelan boyfriend in the film) who grew up in a capitalism system, he understand life in another different way. So, in the moment when Eva says, ‘either both of you or neither’, she is looking for a point of reconciliation.
ME: A synthesis.
ME: That’s why I really loved the film! I found a lot of depth in it. It was really well done.
PRA: But this is interesting because not everybody can identify that. It could just be to many a love story.
ME: Yeah, it could just be entertaining or you can go deeply into it. Has the film been screened yet in Cuba and if not, do you think they will allow it?
PRA: Well, I’ve been to the Habana Film Festival and it was a very very nice experience. I mean, I was very nervous because I didn’t know how they were going to take it. And it was amazing. They really laughed and they really understood the film. They laughed in different parts though. They understand the movie in a different way than the rest of the world. But in a good way, you know… It was good for the movie and they really believe and appreciate my work like as a Cuban so it was a good experience for me.
ME: How difficult was the production of the film?
PRA: Well, the most difficult thing was in the post-production. It was a slow process. I don’t know why it was a problem but it was very very slow. It was a nice production and a good connection between the Cuban crew and the Venezuelan. And for me it was extremely intense, the process, because I had been chosen only a week and a half before they started the shoot. So, I had to study the accent and the rehearsals and then I never stopped working until the end. It was a very intenst lead actress role.
ME: Wow! How long was the shoot for? And was it all shot in Havana?
PRA: 9 weeks. Yes, all shot in Havana.
ME: It’s a gorgeous film, like a two-hour tour through Havana, Cuba.
PRA: Yeah, the people who live there say this film is a beautiful image of Havana. You can see the poverty and how half the buildings are in ruin but it’s all honest. We didn’t get any paint or something to take out the paint. You know, it’s filmed exactly how it is.
ME: Was it filmed on 35mm or digital?
PRA: No, all digital.
ME: Well, it’s beautiful photography. How hard was it to do a Cuban accent? How different is that from Venezuelan?
PRA: It’s different and it’s not so different so that’s why the details are so important. The way that they express and the words and the meanings and the corporeal expression is very different. I know that for people who don’t speak Spanish it’s kind of the same thing, but for us, for Venezuelans and Cubans it’s very subtle and if you don’t do the real accent the people are going to feel that so it was hard because the director, Fina Torres, and I are both perfectionists and we didn’t want the film with regular accents so we worked a lot on that. And we did it! My last test was in Cuba and people really believed it so it was like check mark… We did it!
ME: Awesome! And has the film been distributed anywhere yet? And where has the filmed screened already, apart from Cuba?
PRA: I’m not sure of that. I know that very soon we are going to have good news but I can’t say yet. It has so far screened in Venezuela and has had very good box office and it’s showing in different festivals since last year. I think that it’s closing a cycle right now. For me, I think that yesterday was like the closing.
ME: And an important closing at that, Aruba being so close to home.
PRA: yeah, of course.
ME: Now that there are more and more Venezuelan films, do you think that films are taking a more important role in Venezuela for entertainment than tele-novelas?
PRA: Yes, I don’t know if it’s becoming for the stories or the projects but films are becoming more important because of the Venezuelan situation. In Venezuela we used to have two channels that produce a lot of soap operas but now there is just one for the political situation so and the only channel doesn’t have any competition so it doesn’t produce as much as it used to and on another hand, the films are having more investment in Venezuela so there is more movies right now than soap operas. So, it’s going to change. But I don’t want that image, ‘now we’re going to watch more movies than soap operas’ because soap operas are very interesting genre of TV and we knew how to do that so I think that’s very important to keep growing also. So, now it’s a very nice moment in Venezuela. We are having a lot of good movies and movies traveling in film festivals and winning prizes and awards and the people meeting Venezuela.
ME: Better and better films too. I saw the award-winning film HERMANO (2010) this year. You worked on that film didn’t you?
PRA: Yes, I did the acting coach. The cast wasn’t very known actors so I worked with them for like training and it was very nice and also in the festival period of the movie. There is a lot of great films. And now in Venezuela this month and next month is going to be a nice release of new films.
ME: Nice. Well, we’ll be looking out for them. Is there anything you’d like to close with saying about the film HABANA EVA?
PRA: Well, I learned with this film that it’s up to you what you want to understand. You can find whatever you want there. If you want to see politics, love, whatever, you’re going to find it. The interpretation is very open, you know? So, I just hope that the people enjoy just like the primary idea of watching a film.
ME: What’s your next project?
PRA: I’m in conversation about some things. I can’t talk about it right now. But I am acting in some films that will be released soon and I’m writing too. I am traveling with a stop motion short film that I directed as well. So I am working all of that stuff. The things I learned acting is good for using to write or direct or to participate in other areas of the production of telling the story. That’s what I like. As an actress its good to know how to write because then you understand objectively.
ME: I totally agree it’s so helpful to use knowledge of all sectors in film in order to one more effectively. Are you going to be working on more international films?
PRA: For sure. I am sure I will keep going with films. I hope I am having good relations with different directors and producers that they see it’s interesting to work with me so I’m keeping attention with that.
ME: So, very last question finally! How does it feel to be here in Aruba at the second annual Aruba Film Festival?
PRA: Well, I’m pretty happy because this is a wonderful place. I haven’t come since 1992. I used to come a lot for vacation and I miss it. I understood that a few days ago when I arrived that it’s a very nice place to be.
ME: Well, congrats on your beautiful film HABANA EVA.
PRA: Thank you! Thank you!
Interview conducted and transcribed by Vanessa McMahon
Photos by Vanessa McMahon
The Bulletin Board
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