“If you are different, resist”, is the slogan of today's Cuban youth who do not experience the great violence of the 1960s and 1970s, when many homosexuals were sent to work in the UMAP military production aid units, or agricultural work camps, where they suffered all kinds of harassment and harassment. But if, in accordance with the 2019 Constitution, discrimination is prohibited for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity, the reality is very different, since homophobia and machismo continue to claim victims, in addition to having to face the inherent difficulties of the LGBTI community. to a repressive society in permanent crisis.
The sordidness of lives broken by loneliness, violence and misery gathers in “Chamaco” by Juan Carlos Cremata, different visions converging on a marginal and unstable object of desire. Karel (Fidel Betancourt), a XNUMX-year-old who came from the countryside to Havana looking for a better life, will end up losing it of his own free will when the chain of events and characters interconnected with him closes in on itself and suffocates him, thereby mirroring the oppression of a entire country.
Although the Cuban capital is not the stage here beyond the name of a park or a pizzeria, since the film runs in exteriors and interiors without any specificity, the dynamics arising from the revolution and imposed by several generations on its streets and inhabitants are expressed in the troubles of the protagonists. A diegesis structured in short frames, isolates the action and extracts from each existence what the dictatorship has stolen from it; be it opportunities, as in Karel's case, prostituting for a place to live; prestige, which occurs with Alejandro (Aramís Delgado), a lawyer immersed in a double existence between the familiar and the forbidden; security, as happens with her daughter Silvia (Laura Ramos), a doctor dedicated to her work but lacking solid affection; or aspirations, as happens with Miguel (Caleb Casas), the brother of this one of hers, moving aimlessly in a line of permanent flight.
It will then be that desire to flee from Miguel the motive for the argument, having been left lying on the ground in the park where a transvestite and a cleaner share a bench, while they wait for something to happen or happen to them, in a country where "nothing happens", as expressed by the woman dedicated to watching over the statue of a hero and what happens around her. "You're a guy," the park ranger tells La Chupi (Alfredo Chang), her companion on the bench, who sells flowers or sells herself —"they give me a dollar for one at El Floridita"—, while she waits for Saúl ( Luis Alberto García), corrupt policeman and pimp of the boys who prostitute themselves in the area.
The absence of urban references in fundamentally nocturnal frames, since the chronology refers to the hours before and after Christmas Eve, deepens the impression of a "there without a where", coming from the artificialized vision of Cuba, which Hollywood cinema projected in the thirties and forties following the neo-colonial policies of the United States. A vision deconstructed by the film, by taking the North American parody of the Island to melodrama, in La Chupi's makeup and accessories; and where the basket with flowers hyperrealizes those that adorned those rumba dancers on Hollywood screens.
The grotesqueness of the whole, however, erases the kitsch effect, distancing the characters from the stereotype and giving them a seriousness with a strong political charge of denouncing a stagnant and intolerant government. This compels the Cubans themselves to accuse their neighbors to settle scores and avenge grudges, or in the case of the cleaner, to refuse to recognize the difference and the different, in addition to hiding her fear of framing Miguel's murderer. A duplicity, which Karel exploits while he exploits his victims, whether they are the young man killed for not having money to pay his bet in a chess game, the lawyer and father of the victim whom he seduces to extract money, the "uncle" Felipe (Francisco García) manipulated by his charms until he humiliates himself before him, Silvia living an affair with her brother's murderer without knowing it, and the policeman whose lack of scruples allows him to weave the net into which they all end up falling.
Karel here becomes the obscure object of desire, whose ambiguity stems from the cultural impossibility of reevaluating his gender role, given the precariousness of a situation that makes him a victim of his own destiny. This prevents him from facing the alienation imposed by the Cuban repressive system on those who do not enjoy his favors, in order to get hold of the tools to improve his condition and make his dreams of a conqueror come true. “All this if one has money for the car, the gym, the orchid. The day I have enough money I'm going to get three jebitas at the same time”, he tells Miguel, while they play the game of chess that will be deadly for both of them.
The lack of references for these young people in a subjugated society, isolated and deprived of the most essential, leads them to vent their frustrations by evading family responsibilities, as happens with Miguel, or indiscriminately destroying what does not satisfy their urgencies, as happens with Karel . But external intransigence is too strong for those who do not have the favor of the regime or hold a position of power within it, thus falling through the cracks of a system whose survival is above common welfare, which makes it sacrifice those who necessary in order to remain intact. Here it will be the murder of Miguel and the subsequent suicide of his murderer that will open and close the film, respectively, leaving the hours prior to both events exposed, with all their surprises and inconsistencies, in the content of the diegesis.
The argument will be nurtured from that space between the two deaths in order to expose the intransigence of power, even when some of its members intend to give a more humane and normalizing vision of homosexuality, in a country where the persecution and punishment of dissidence has been the norm since the establishment of Castroism. The lighting will emphasize the secrecy and concealment resulting from desire among equals, privileging meetings in shady places, and thereby mimicking the dark areas of the Cuban being, reluctant to accept openly and on an equal footing members of the LGBTI community.
“You are onto something. You are waiting for someone”, ponders the informant weighing up La Chupi. However, she will not feel alluded to, since she belongs to a post-Mariel generation that is much more aware of her situation, her rights and prerogatives within the regime, despite the homophobia that exists in all sectors of national life. Hence, the harassment of the cleaner does not worry her too much and she can even openly refute her suspicions. Likewise, the fact of having Saúl as her protector and occasional lover gives her the security to stay there and ask the woman to find another little stool to sit on, while she waits for her “husband”.
The arrival of Saúl, who sees in Miguel's murder an opportunity to extort money from the deceased's family, will abruptly interrupt the dialogue between the two women, also exposing a closeness with La Chupi that he will try to hide from the informant; although when she gives him her jacket to keep him warm and money to get him out of there, she will reveal their relationship, emphasized by the transvestite's goodbye kiss. Another example of the masculine ambiguity to accept and accept himself, masking the true direction of his desire in an imposed machismo, which will have here an unexpected development in the chain of relationships set to unite the different characters with each other.
The airing of the difference of the group will have an eminently political background, in the tacit presence of the achievements of the revolution, orbiting in the darkness of a night that was not very good for them. "Since it's the end of the year, the meat was more expensive, of course, half green," Silvia tells Alejandro, her father, while she prepares the dinner that no member of the family will eat this Christmas Eve. With this, the film sideways touches on the issue of scarcity, even in professional homes where the combined salaries of a doctor and a lawyer are not enough to put a good meal on the table. And as she enumerates the poor quality of the ingredients with which she has been forced to cook, Silvia lets her resentment towards her father transpire, probably due to his double life and the negative impact his actions had on her psyche. the mother, already disappeared.
Alejandro's sexual misunderstanding, a product of this false machismo of Saúl, is combined here with the work to survive in the midst of daily life in order to get hold of the most essential, as a constant in the existence of the Cuban people since the entry of Fidel Castro to Havana.
“How much did you spend on food? —About five hundred pesos if you start looking. —A month's salary. —Mine”, they will continue, revealing their personal inadequacies in a reality where economic problems will find another way out, through mutual recriminations regarding married life.
"Sometimes I think that if you got married we would get along better," ponders the father. "Sometimes I think that, if you were to marry again... I would love to taste your wife's seasoning," her daughter will reply caustically; emphasizing them in the exchange the narrow place of exogenous affections in their lives, since neither of them has yet found a satisfactory relationship. Silvia, because her professional demands have not allowed her to dedicate herself fully to a couple, isolating her rather in a space alien to the vital rhythm of geography. “Building a glass island. So much time wasted on this shit”, she will end up saying her and telling herself, when tonight's events finally overtake her. “Sometimes I like to get close to crime. I should stay away, but I'm getting close", Alejandro will reveal to Karel when they meet that morning, starting the seduction process that will end up destroying the boy. In the case of the man, the very brief affair will not give him the satisfactions sought and never found in married life; With which both he and his daughter, devastated by the loss of her brother and not yet knowing that the lover shared with his own father is the murderer, will be exposed and without the possibility of redemption.
On the other hand, Karel's self-immolation, carried out with the intention of atoning for his sins, instead of saving him for the things of heaven, condemns him for earthly affairs, establishing him as a sexual body with an ambiguous meaning, since it is not resolved in the film the ultimate reason for the meeting with Alejandro. In fact, the slow tracking shot of the naked body lying on the ground, with the man's voiceover recounting the physical resemblance between the dead son and the lover, adds an incestuous ingredient to the plot, and makes Karel the hinge between a present where he is a martyr and a future of demoralization and impotence for Alejandro, unable to absorb all the meanings of the drama.
“I met him two days ago in front of the sidewalk of the 'Louvre' the same night that my son was killed. He spoke to me and it was as if he had Miguel in front of me. The same age, my God, the same look of Miguel. Having a son just buried and thinking of a child. I know it's hard to understand, but they were the same thing, Miguel and Karel, when I saw him on the threshold. We rolled over on the bed. Pure enthusiasm. One kiss, two. He whispered in my ear when we were done: 'I don't want any money from you. I do not want'".
In the place of absence, Alejandro is blank and without arguments to justify the presence of Karel, dead before him and in his own house, beyond its allegorical meaning as a representation of the clandestine and furtive. Something that the revolution will consider a hindrance and a focus of resistance against the purity of the new man advocated by communist ideology, and therefore it is necessary to erase, disappear, make it appear that it never existed; thus joining him to the long chain of victims of Castro's homophobia personified in the film by the figure of Saúl.
The dose of power that belonging to the police forces confers on him, allows him to control the young people in the area, keeping part of what he earned in his carnal transactions, or in the case of Karel, demanding that he also find out where Alejandro gets his money. . “Nobody has enough money in this city to be spending it with boys every night. I'm going to leave you alone until January, not a requested card, not a night in jail. Find him!” he orders, threatening him and indirectly implying that he knows who killed the son of his prospective lover.
Alejandro awaits the security that the boy has not found at "Uncle" Felipe's house, but at the same time he does not want to compromise him because, deep down, his imbalances are a consequence of the cornering he suffered due to the intolerance of others. Real or fictitious relatives, fellow sufferers like Chupi herself, circumstantial encounters such as the fateful one with Miguel, constitute his vital environment, leaving him out in the open, literally and allegorically. This is so because, on the one hand, "Uncle" Felipe will demand that he leave his house by not allowing himself to be possessed by him anymore, and on the other hand, the precariousness and urgency of their street sexual encounters will lack seriousness and substance, leaving him alone. luck, or like Tennessee Williams's Blanche Dubois leading him to depend on the kindness of strangers.
His crime then is the consequence of abandonment and suicide the only possible way for him to purge his ills, which in itself constitutes a contradiction since it is imposed on the desire for survival put into all his displacements; either from the city to the countryside, from the house of his protector to the street or from this to Alejandro's home where he hoped perhaps to find a safe shelter. A hope, always in the thoughts of the victim of intransigence and destroyed by Saúl, who in a dark alley will humiliate and beat him after having enjoyed his favors, to remind him of the degree of instability and the fragile nature of his situation in an environment that the shortages, together with the authoritarianism, manipulation and impositions of the regime, make it even more heartbreaking.
“And how much did the lawyer pay you? Or maybe you gave him a little discount. How did you kill his son ”, Saúl will throw in his face while he beats him and specifies the connections between Alejandro, Miguel and Silvia, with whom Karel has met in death or in sex. This, from his seat among the Cubans in charge of monitoring, controlling, threatening and arresting those who oppose or rebel against his orders and mandates, which by extension in his mind are also those of the revolution. "Fool. Even to kill you have to have a head”, he stresses, echoing Castro's Machiavellian tactics of intimidation and punishment with which he has remained in power for more than half a century, destabilizing more prosperous, powerful and democratic to take advantage of their riches. This, parallel to the annihilation of all free thought, which has forced many nonconformists to risk death to flee the Island, or like the protagonist of "Chamaco" escaping the horror in a safer way.
The scene of jealousy of "Uncle" Felipe, with the soundtrack of radio news pondering the achievements of Castroism and emphasizing the flaws of liberalism, demonstrates the ideological saturation of the system and exposes the miseries of those who did not want or could not emigrate, embodied in the figure of the finished and decadent homosexual. “You eat here and enjoy outside”, the old man will reproach the boy while he tries to possess him, between the pathos of his appetites and the personal and housing disintegration, like allegories of the generalized decomposition of the Island.
It will therefore be from the network of intolerances of Cuban society weaving around the characters, from which the director will extract the material for his production, aimed at a much more open viewer. This, in order to reflect those zones of resistance to chronic sectarianism entrenched, however, in the Cuban being, but that the new generations are beginning to shake thanks to access to digital platforms where they denounce the lack of freedoms and violence against minorities, as well such as the repression of those who ask for justice, following the global outcry of this decade against those who murder the most vulnerable with impunity.
The protest, however, does not enter into the everyday life of these characters, overwhelmed by a reality that surpasses them. And it is clearly that impotence to verbalize injustices and excesses that sets the tone of the film, whose tension will increase as the fence around Karel closes. The persecution of which the young man is a victim, given his subjection to the dictates of Saul, is transferred to the lives of the other characters, whose lives remain marked by the omniscient presence of the eternal leader. Hardships and setbacks will have, in the different facets of each one, a fundamental specific weight coming from the existing obstacles in the country to develop freely, and have access to the goods granted to those who control the Party and its acolytes.
“—I would like to eat an apple. —Oops! They are cheap in 'La Revoltosa'. "There isn't any there." You know that one dollar is not even enough for two”, Miguel comments to Silvia, shortly before leaving for the last night of his existence, knowing that he is unable to raise that money, with which the chess game becomes the last hope to get some dollars that Karel also needs. Both then bet knowing that neither will be able to pay, but expect to win in order to get that non-existent money from the opponent. The insufficiency set to trigger the drama consequently has an added tragedy, that is, the also eternal need of the Cuban people, forced to invent them incessantly to survive one more day.
This dynamic where the struggle between dominator and dominated marks the carnal, economic and family exchanges, also constitutes the framework to subjugate sexual minorities, victims of institutionalized homophobia, in the same way as the rest of institutionalized poverty. The double subjugation suffered by the LGBTI community is added to the work of the rest, always keeping it on guard so as not to succumb to the dictates of the strongest, or to the derision of those who feel entitled to condemn for not belonging to the group outcast.
“Chamaco” echoes such dynamics and exposes it openly, which makes the film doubly subversive. Well, if on the one hand it exposes the underground of gay prostitution, on the other it externalizes the intrinsic evils of the system, whose action on the citizenry is as strong as that of those who exploit young people to profit from their precariousness. Here it is represented by Saúl, an exponent of state intolerance and the benefit that he obtains by extorting the other, whether it is the homosexual, the worker or an entire nation, as is the case today with Venezuela.
This conjunction between exploitation and domination is certainly not unique to Cuba, but extends to the rest of Latin America where the rights of the LGTBI collective either do not exist or are systematically violated, regardless of legal regulations. It is not surprising then that the majority prefer to keep their sexuality in the closet or live it discreetly, especially in the middle and upper sectors of the population for whom conveniences, appearances and duplicities are fundamental in order to maintain status and be accepted within the social circles. most exclusive circles, which are also the most exclusive. Something that those who are not part of that social group cannot hold, being left at the mercy of extortion and injustice, which happens with the protagonists of this always current and necessary film.

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