Review: To War
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Argentina’s Francisco Marise debuts with a film that blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary, portraying a Cuban man holding on fast to his memories of war
“Weapons need spirit, like literature”, reads the quotation that rounds off the closing credits of To War [+see also:
film profile], the debut film from Francisco Marise, presented in the New Directors Section at the 66th San Sebastián International Film Festival. Based on a screenplay written by the director himself alongside Javier Rebollo (Woman Without Piano [+see also:
interview: Javier Rebollo, director of…
film profile]), it’s one of the most free-spirited, offbeat and avant-garde films to grace the Basque festival... Why so? Keep reading.
Andrés Rodríguez Rodríguez, the one and only protagonist of this collage film that chops and changes between reality and replication, is a 61-year-old Cuban man and a former elite soldier. At a tender age he went to war in Angola, and again to Nicaragua ten years later. Marooned in his memories of that time, back in the present day he brightly reminisces about battling invisible enemies in the shadows of the forest. In time, he seeks out his old commando pals, making phone calls to the places they are thought to live — only to find that some are no longer alive. When Fidel Castro dies, Andrés goes to pay his respects, but his faith in the revolution remains unshaken.
Up until this point, To War could be a biopic like any other, but throughout its 65-minute running time — intercut with archive footage of children being prepared for armed combat (to the unanimous approval of applauding spectators to the Cuban military’s displays) and pages from war handbooks explaining how to attack the enemy and camouflage yourself to take him by surprise — the camera’s gaze remains fixed on the lined but ebullient face of this man, whose mission in life remains the eternal struggle for which he was trained.
His gravelly voice, so low that at times he’s impossible to make out, provides the only soundtrack to scenes from his day-to-day life, which Marise brings in so close to us that we can see the hunger to keep fighting for his revolutionary ideals pulsing in the soul of this old soldier, with no war in sight. This fervour is so deeply encoded in his DNA that, like in a child’s game or a never-ending ritual, he keeps on training like it’s his very first day, itching to go man-to-man with those he considers the evil-doers of humanity.
Marise, who studied filmmaking in San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba, is taking his first steps in the world of cinema having previously worked as a photographer. The film was selected for Ibermedia’s fourth Central American and Caribbean Project Development Workshop, an IDFA production grant and the tenth Cuban Development and Networking Forum, held in 2016.
To War is a Spanish–Argentinian co-production between Lolita Films and Amateur Cinéma, the companies of Javier Rebollo and Francisco Marise respectively. Together, they personally took on the task of editing the film, while Marise oversaw photography.
(Translated from Spanish)
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