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Viva

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Shot and set in Cuba, Viva deals with queer identities presented along the sensual Cuban tones of the 50's and 60's. At the same time, the film explores a father-son relationship through their complex journey of conflict and reconciliation. In doing so, the question it ultimately asks is in regards to identity and personal growth: "how does one live a life that is true to him/herself?" What is impressive here is that these different aspects that the film focuses on do not clash or crowd its narrative space but create a special kind of synergy. Whilst also successfully presenting unique aesthetic qualities, Viva does not fail to entertain its audience, with laugh and also tears.

Yet, the story line is rather simple. Jesus (Héctor Medina), an 18-year old working as a hairdresser in rundown Havana pursues his dream of becoming a drag queen, despite the opposition of his macho, ex-boxer father Angel (Jorge Perugorria).  Even without a dramatic turn, the story keeps its audience engaged until the last second. It is perhaps because each one of the characters’ life is at the end “dramatic” in its own right: feeble but kind-hearted Jesus dedicates everything to keep his dream, Angel refuses to accept his son’s ambition to perform in drag while reminiscing his past when he “had nothing to fear,” and Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia), a Havana drag queen troupe who has been cultivating her life in the manner of a warrior now fights for Angel. Perhaps far from how it seems, it is extremely easy to relate to these characters. With his sexual identity and introverted tendency giving Jesus struggles to overcome each and every day, we are allowed to examine our own scars and to be healed through such awareness—the “personal” aspects of the story is what becomes relatable for the viewer.

What tops off such strong narrative is the remarkable performances of the actors. Through the portrayal of conflict between Jesus and Angel who whilst facing death turns his back on his transgender son, the course of acceptance and love is expressed through just the right amount of emotions, without overwhelming the audience. Perhaps it is with such factor that its audience so easily goes through an experience similar to transference. At some point you'll hate Angel when he cold-heartedly dismisses Jesus, and feel almost suffocated to see Jesus when he regardless does what he is told to do. It is difficult not to laugh when Mama sings, "Don't fall in love with her," and not to cry when Angel, witnessing Jesus' performance on stage, lovingly touches his chin. As such, Viva surprises its audience with its remarkable ability to lead them through a wide spectrum of emotions.

By Park Hun-hee (Content Provider, Time Out Seoul)

Cast and crew

  • Director:Paddy Breathnach
  • Cast:
    • Héctor Medina
    • Jorge Perugorría
    • Luis Alberto García
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