On my last visit to Cuba this April 2011, I strolled the streets of Infanta, one of my favorite streets in Havana (with a few secret vinyl vendors). This last time, I walked past 3 movie theaters on the broad avenue where I noticed repeated posters of a local Cuban film called Boleto al Paraiso (Ticket to Paradise), by Gerardo Chijona. The poster hit my sentimental nerves due to the resemblance of the 1979 American film Over the Edge (Matt Dillon’s first big film). The soundtrack was genius with Cheap Trick, Ramone’s, Van Halen… and the heartbreaking “Ooh Child”, the Valerie Carter version.
Just as I stared at that album cover back in the days, I found myself stopping at every poster on Infanta, approaching it and getting to know the faces of these new protagonists, hungry to see the world and flex their independence just like their 70’s American disenfranchised counterparts. Over the Edge, was a dark reflection of a society that’s turned its back on its young citizens. Over the Edge was also a commentary on the generation gap which leads us to our Cuban version of this story released earlier this year on the island.
Boleto al Paraiso is melancholic, but illuminating. It’s also very provocative because it digs up all the old demons of the “Special Period”, a painful era full of economic crash from 1990’s Cuba. The Special Period is mentioned on this blog often due to the fact this exact period is what birthed the Hip Hop revolution in Cuba. In this particular movie, the characters from the 90’s era are the “rocker kids”, which was a different musical youth movement that came together in protest.
In the film, each of the characters are each going through their dark lives, starting with Eunice who flees home to escape her fathers sexual advances. She joins a crew of other runaway buddies as they all head towards Havana. It’s lots of bonding, emotions, and adventures. More importantly, the reflect and question their fates, and the paradigm they’re living within their own country — bonded through loneliness and emptiness. And just like the 90’s scene, some of the radical rockers in Cuba injected themselves with AIDS as a statement of their preference to die rather than live in a drone existence. The film touches upon this moment as well.
This film makes you want to grab the Rocker kids, give them a big hug and assure them that new days are coming. Hang in there guys! — “things are gonna get easier… ooh child things will get brighter”.