The Sugar Curtain
EmptyFirst Run/Icarus Films
NEW YORK -- Camila Guzman Urzua's "The Sugar Curtain" offers a distinctly personal view of postrevolution Cuba. Urzua, daughter of the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzman, was born in Chile but spent the bulk of her childhood in Cuba after arriving there in 1973. This film details her recent return visit to Havana, in which she contrasts the conditions now with when she left.
Urzua details the rose-colored memories of her childhood in what she recalls as a "paradise," one in which all the needs of the people were taken care of by the state. Fortunately for her, she left the island in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The loss of that superpower's financial support brought about an economic collapse.
Using a hand-held camera and raw visual style, the filmmaker revisits the scenes of her youth, like the previously bustling school she attended that is now a decrepit ruin.
The filmmaker's bittersweet reflections on her own former idealism form the philosophical heart of the film, which is less judgmental than simply sorrowful in its nostalgia for a lost society. That sorrow is tempered, however, by the climactic footage of happy schoolchildren that seems to imply hope for the future.