A disillusioned, chain-smoking, roguish cop, prone to drinking binges, bouts of self-pity and hopeless romanticism is battling away in a world of corruption, drugs, sex and murder. Sound familiar? Some of it is, but these four feature length police procedurals come from Cuba and our cop is a product of ideological cleansing, unemployment and an economy gone-to-shit ever since the Soviet Union collapsed.
Mario Conte (Jorge Perugorría) wanted to be a writer and still tries; his romantic relationships seem forever doomed and his drinking buddies include an Angolan Vet in a wheelchair.
He’s obsessed with Creedence Clearwater Revival and every time he comes close to breaking a case, an unseen, unspoken force from above stops him linking street-crime to The Party. Che Guevara posters and paintings are peeling off the walls, Cuban funk swells the soundtrack and some Havana buildings, even funkier than the music, look like they might collectively collapse at any moment.
This is the world of Cuban author Leonardo Padura and his Havana Quartet novels, where cops happily discuss their “existential problems” while driving old Russian cars and persons-of-interest can be experts in “Creole postmodernism”. It’s the 1990s and Cuba is suffering through a severe economic decline known as The Special Period.
A former investigative journalist, the Havana-born Padura charts this world of a generation disillusioned by the revolution; nostalgic for the “decadent” Cuba of the 1950s; permanently stung by accusations of being “non-ideological” and ever aware of investigations into their behavior from those above them. In one episode, Conde faces up to his own homophobia, his “macho-Marxism” and his inability to adjust to a new Cuba “after things changed”.
Spanish produced, in association with Cuba’s ICAIC, and directed by Spaniard Félix Viscarret, it’s unique and exotic and in Padura’s words, a “series [that] bears witness to a Havana which in ten years might not exist”.
|"...a world of corruption, drugs, sex and murder."|