Dir: Gerardo Chijona. Cuba/Spain. 1999. 90 mins.
Prod cos: Wanda Film, Institute Of Art And Film Cuba. Int'l sales: Wanda Film. Exec prods: Evelio Delgado, Puy Oria. Prods: Camilo Vives, Jose Maria Morales. Scr: Gerardo Chijona, Luis Aguero, Senel Paz. DoP: Raul Perez Ureta. Art dir: Erick Grass. Ed: Rori Saenz de Rozas. Mus: Jose Maria Vitier. Main cast: Thais Valdes, Vladimir Cruz, Enrique Molina, Daisy Granados, Santiago Alfonso, Jacqueline Arenal.
Cuban-Spanish co-production A Paradise Under The Stars (Un Paraiso Bajo Las Estrellas) may run out of steam two-thirds of the way through its running time but its wild, preposterous exuberance should be enough to score with buyers and audiences - certainly in select territories.
A sort of sub-early Almodovar-ian romp set around the famous Tropicana nightclub in Havana, Gerardo Chijona's film was a prize-winner at the Havana Film Festival last year and was well-received at its World Cinema screenings at Sundance this year. It was subsequently sold to Entertainment Consortium for Latin America and Angel Scandinavia for Scandinavia. Further deals are pending.
Describing the zany plot is somewhat pointless. It revolves around a jealous father and former crooner at the Tropicana (the Paradise of the title) whose daughter secretly gets a dancing job at the club and embarks on an affair with a man who may or may not be her own brother. Birthmarks, voodoo offerings and a resurrection from the dead figure in the story which is laced with flamboyant dance numbers and colourful costumes.
For all the freshness and allure it shows at the beginning, its final stretch becomes tired as yet more secrets and revelations are unveiled. Nevertheless it's a breezy second film from Chijona (his first was Adorables Mentiras) and a sexy export from the struggling Cuban film industry.