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Memories of Overdevelopment -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- If, as this year's "rebel" motto suggests, Sundance is attempting to get back to its roots with innovative, truly independent filmmaking, than "Memories of Overdevelopment" is a good start. Miguel Coyula's rambling, highly personal distillation of the Cuban revolution and its effects on a disillusioned intellectual is thoughtful and cinematically bold, but its complex structure and subject matter will limit it to the festival circuit.

Taking off where the landmark Cuban film "Memories of Underdevelopment" left off, and based on a novel by the same author, Coyula traces the life of Sergio (Ron Blair), a true believer in the socialist revolution which ultimately didn't turn as he had hoped. Now relocated in New York, Sergio lectures at colleges about what went wrong in Cuba while womanizing and darkly ruminating about the failures of his life.

He's a morose character who barely smiles through the whole film, but it is the way this 20th-century tale of alienation is told that holds your interest and makes it powerful. Put together in a non-linear style, with flashbacks and a collage of images from Sergio's past, the film pieces together an array of personal and historical events to create a portrait of a lost soul. As Sergio says at one point, what's going on in his head may be more real than the real world, and the film captures his disconnectedness from life well.

It's not an easy story to tell and the film travels to Paris, London, Cuba and New York to get inside the character as he tries to rekindle the intensity of his revolutionary years. Blair's low-key but charismatic performance makes an essentially tragic figure somewhat sympathetic.

Coyula also wrote the screenplay and shot the film but in his additional role as editor he could have trimmed from the 115-minutes running time. But overall, it's an affecting portrait of a modern man becoming more and more isolated from the world he helped create.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Cast: Ron Blair, Eileen Alana, Susan Perez, Lester Martinez, Dayana M. Hernandez, Reb Fleming
Director: Miguel Coyula
Writer: Coyula
Producer: David Leitner
Executive producers: Steven Pieczenik, Suzana Dejkanovic
Director of Photography: Miguel Coyula
Music: Dika Durbuzovic, Miguel Coyula, Hayes Greenfield, Luis Novo
Editor: Miguel Coyula
No rating, 115 minutes