Strawberry and Chocolate DVD
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Directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea
Produced in 1993
Main Language - Spanish with English subtitles
Countries & Regions - South American Film
The first Cuban film to be nominated for an Oscar, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío's Strawberries and Chocolate is a warm, witty story of friendship filmed against the chaos and colour of Havana.
David (Vladimir Cruz), an idealistic student, lets his earnestness get the better of him when he takes his fiancee to a shabby hotel. She tearfully demurs, but to her shock he agrees to postpone their union til their wedding night. The next thing we know, she's married another man and David is drowning his sorrows in dairy at Coppelia, Havana's famous ice-cream park.
He is soon joined by Diego (Jorge Perrugoria), who spies a potential opening. Diego is older, handsome, and far from demure; he's also eating strawberry ice-cream, which instantly arouses David's suspicions, as chocolate - the preferred choice - was also available. But Diego defies Cuban convention in more ways than one: a flamboyant and outspoken gay artist, his apartment is a clutter where photos of Marilyn Monroe join religious iconography.
Diego's comically unsuccessful seduction of David's body leads into a longer and more substantial meeting of minds, and the film defies our expectations of the genre by leaving both men unconverted.
Given Cuba's tardy attempts to reform official attitudes towards homosexuality, it is surprising to find a home-grown film which tackles the issue with such candour - especially one made as early as 1994 by the founder of Cuba's national film unit.
Ultimately, Strawberries and Chocolate is a celebration of difference, and the relationship between the incorruptible David and the unconventional Diego mirrors the Castro regime's slow acceptance of the fact that dissent need not be unpatriotic.
Milo Wakelin on 2nd March 2009
Author of 103 reviews
'Art is one thing' claims defiantly gay Diego, 'and propaganda is another.' Compassionate and syly comic, this multi-award winner offers subversive takes on political ideologies and macho culture, celebrates friendship, and suggests revolutions must continue until everyone is equal.
An exploration into the seduction of the mind, Strawberry And Chocolate shows how politics can shape lives, opinions and relationships. Hugely controversial in Cuba even now, the film was the first to feature a gay man as the hero while openly criticising the Government and its widespread intolerance. It was this picture that started the dialogue that has only last year allowed Brokeback Mountain to be shown in Havana.
Publisher: Mr Bongo
Length: 110 mins
Cat No: MRBDVD013
Format: DVD Colour