7 Days in Havana: another week would have been nice
by Bénédicte Prot
25/05/2012 - Ensemble film 7 Days in Havana [trailer] is one of the most beautiful adventures in the Un Certain Regard selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The project is so intriguing because, from Monday to Sunday, seven filmmakers from different countries (in order, Benicio Del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabio, and Laurent Cantet) use their different styles to lead us on an exploration of the Cuban capital, without ever interrupting the continuity of a tale expertly coordinated by Leonardo Padura.
The film flows beautifully, notably because common elements ensure a smooth transition between each episode. On Monday, we follow a young American slowly letting himself be carried away by the fever of Cuban nightlife, checking out all the pretty girls along the way. On Tuesday, we are treated to the gaze of another stranger, hotels, and taxis, but especially to the music and nightlife that allow Emir Kusturica to reconcile himself with his business trip in Havana and with his wife, even if she has stayed behind in Serbia. On Wednesday, another -- this time Spanish-speaking -- stranger (played by Spanish-German actor Daniel Brühl) surprises the spellbinding singer Cecilia with a dream proposal that will guarantee her a career and him love. On Thursday, it's Palestinian filmmakerElia Suleiman who picks up his suitcases and starts walking around, waiting for Fidel Castro to finish a never-ending speech. Lonely, unsure of his way down corridors, streets, and the seafront, he observes Havana's inhabitants one by one.
But these diverse silhouettes do not remain isolated for long. On Friday, a sensual and forbidden union during a dancing trance needs a ritual. Mirta ritually busies herself in her kitchen on Saturday, as does the elderly Marta the next day when she organises a ceremony, according to very precise instructions she has received from the Virgin Mary, that ends up flooding her neighbour's flat below, but is a good excuse for Afro-Cuban songs that carry on in the audience's head well after the film is over.
Music is, of course, the main element that brings this ensemble film together, but from one episode to the next, faces, intrigues, and sometimes unexpected patterns also re-appear, whether this is the theme of waiting or the recurring presence of eggs... 7 Days in Havana is a rich, poetic, and warm film that is full of humour and that, along its week, plunges the audience into the the throbbing heart of the real Havana.
(Translated from French)