D.Directed by Pablo Briones, Sean Clark and Jace Freeman, here’s a film that blurs the lines between fiction and documentary as it accentuates bittersweet childhood connections, full of teasing, mischief, and innocent tenderness. Following Leonel and Antuàn, a couple of friends who grew up in the small Cuban town of Pueblo Textil, this fascinating walk through abandoned landscapes functions as a journey towards the peak of adulthood.
Scripted based on real-life relationships and conversations between the two friends, Baracoa has an authentic spontaneity to children’s interactions so seldom captured in fictional films that they rely on precocious child actors. The camera silently watches the couple’s wanderings through dilapidated precincts and deserts whose austerity is transformed by the children’s imaginations. At one point, Leonel and Antuàn pretend to drive while sitting on top of a rusted and broken car frame. The moment is poetic, but also full of melancholy. Soon, they won’t find those childhood dreams so entertaining.
In effect, this contemplative film explodes in an emotional break, as Leonel moves to Havana without even saying goodbye. When Antuàn finally visits Leonel in the big city, there is a resistance in the boys’ body language, as if they need to relearn how to be friends. Here, amidst the densely packed apartment complexes, the couple no longer roam freely; instead, they play video games. While the occasional heavy-handed scenes undermine the film’s meditative mood (Antuàn’s long internal monologue on death feels out of character and more like an unnecessary flourish from adult filmmakers), this is a rewarding film, a study of urban spaces that acutely evokes the loneliness of adult filmmakers. childhood. To watch these young children is to briefly plunge into a reverie, like an after-school nap, fleeting but satisfying.
Baracoa is available on October 8 on True Story.