Santa & Andres (NR)

November 14, 2017
By Serena Donadoni
The Orwellian image of totalitarianism is bleak and urban, with thought police lurking around every corner. Sunny rural Cuba seems a world away, but in Carlos Lechuga's delicate drama Santa & Andres, ideological rigor has seeped into everyday life and relationships are drawn along the party line. Santa (Lola Amores) marches up to the hilltop home of Andres (Eduardo Martinez) with all the authority of a state official, even though her job is caring for livestock at the collective farm.

She has been sent to watch him while an international conference takes place nearby. The government classifies Andres as a dangerous dissident writer, but Santa finds a timid, subdued man in his 50s eking out a livelihood from canning fruit. His weathered, barren shack is devoid of books, let alone a typewriter. It's 1983, and Andres has seen his peers flee after the revolution or grow old and die in Cuba, unheralded and defeated. Being gay has made him even more of an outcast in a society that maintained conservative mores while adopting radical politics.

With quiet precision, Lechuga (Melaza) charts Andres' resilience and Santa's awakening, using a naturalistic visual style and sparse dialogue that reveals how these characters instinctively read between the lines. When Santa acquires a black market sundress, the thin, frilly, impractical garment symbolizes a new defiance. Her time with Andres reveals how much she's sacrificed without making a fuss. Small rebellions can have major consequences for Santa, but she's willing to pay the price for a greater awareness of the world beyond her constricted existence.
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