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Bitter Sugar is now one of my most favorite foreign movies, other than ‘Swept Away’. It gives me such a great help understanding the political system in different parts of the world. On this occasion I will begin to interpret the film ‘Bitter Sugar’ directed by ‘Leon Ichaso. ’ Bitter Sugar is a film that is mostly in my opinion, anti- Castro. Although the film was made in 1996, it was representing the period after the Cuban Revolution. Hence, the film is shot in Black and White.
The structure of the film sends a message to the viewers.
Look at the life we live in Cuba, our communist country. The strongest sense this film delivers is the sacrifice one has to do to survive in Cuba. We watch as Anti-Castro citizens try to escape to the United States of America for freedom. Gustavo is communist who stands for the revolution. The movie starts off with showing us all that Gustavo hopes for. He is hoping to get a promised scholarship for aeronautical engineering.
He begins to lose his patience and starts to lose a part of his faith in Castro, even after how faithful his family supported Castro.
In the meantime, while frolicking around Cuba he meets Yolanda who comes from the “streets”. Yolanda is Anti-Castro and dreams of being a dancer in Miami. For Gustavo and Yolanda, It was love at first sight. Disillusion permeate Yolanda and Gustavo in post revolution Havana, Cuba. Yolanda’s parents are not satisfied with her dating Gustavo and distrust the fact that he is a supporter of Castro.
Yolanda starts to work as a prostitute in hopes to go to Miami, Florida and pursue her career as a dancer.
Money for families are so scarce in Havana, Cuba that her parents do not even argue against her escorting details. Gustavo starts to see the corruption and poverty around Cuba, and he starts to take Castro for who he is. Gustavo realizes that all the public is receiving from Castro, are empty promises. Gustavo’s father, Tomas Valdez who is a doctor changes his path in careers just to get by. Dr. Valdez decides to play piano in a tourist bar where he gains more there rather than practicing Medicine.
Dr. Tomas Valdez and his late wife were also pro-revolutionaries along with Gustavo and his brother Bobby. After the passing of Dr. Valdez’s wife, he and his sons also begin to see what poverty and despair is creating in Cuba and how it is pushing Cuban citizens to the limit. There is a place in the movie where Bobby injects himself with the AIDS virus knowingly. It was such an extreme form of protest in my mind and sadden me tremendously. I felt like there was no hope in Cuba.
In the end, Gustavo dies while trying to kill Castro in despair. This film allowed me to see how disillusioned Cubans are. It’s Castro’s system or the highway. It just baffles me how a prostitute can earn more money than a doctor. I went to Cuba in 1998 and plenty of European men were in Havana looking for women. I think that Leon Ichaso did a superb job in this film and in demonstrating how bittersweet in can be in Cuba. As vibrant as the personalities are in this film, there was nothing vibrant about their future. No one wins.
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