Horizontes: A glimpse of an almost mythical Cuba
by Giorgia Del Don
- Swiss director Eileen Hofer screened at Visions du réel her debut feature film, which paints a picture of Cuba through the experiences of three ballet dancers at different stages of their careers
Eileen Hofer, who also attended Visions du réel last year with her short film My Honeymoon, once again turns her gaze on three female figures who seem to single-handedly embody the mythical air of Cuba, taking home a Special Mention from the SSA/Swissimage Jury.
Horizontes [+see also:
film profile], which had its worldwide premiere in the Regard Neuf section of the festival, is a film which may seen transparently clear, but hidden throughout are a number of the defining paradoxes of the Cuban socialist myth. The precision and dedication required in classical dance fits so well with the rigidity of the Communist system that it blends in with its principles almost entirely. The pas de deux that is established between these two realities is so fascinating that it’s dazzling, and leaves us almost powerless to oppose it, to look beyond the reality of what is imposed on us.
In Cuba classical dance is not “just” a noble discipline, but also and above all the embodiment of the harmony that can come out of precision, bordering on perfection. In the midst of the comings and goings of the outside world (the few intimate moments not spent in auditions), in the legendary Gran Teatro de La Habana, Eileen Hofer paints the delicate portrait of three ballet dancers at various stages of their careers; from one who is just starting out to one who has reached the height of her career and been awarded the Prima ballerina assoluta title. The lives of young Amanda, who’s training for her first competitive exam, of Vingsay who’s preparing to join the National ballet, and the much-loved Alicia Alonso Prima Ballerina, who directs the prestigious Ballet Nacional de Cuba with an iron fist, blend together as if to form a lasting bond.
Striking are the similarities between the paths of each of the three ballerinas, as if carved from one and the same road. This uniformity, which exists despite their differing emotions, successes and hopes, is reflected in the few images of Cuba, which are also unchanging, stubborn. The horizons alluded to in the title are not in this sense physical horizons, a sort of means of escape or mirage, but rather internal universes, dreamed up and fuelled by national pride. Just as Viengsay sees dance as a way of flying behind the horizon, as in a dream (instead of pursuing an international career she prefers to stay on the island), Alicia Alonso leans on it like a walking stick against the blindness she suffers from; both women use dance as an immaginary means of escape from an unalterable reality. In almost perfect harmony with their country, Viengsay and Alicia feed off of ghosts and blend into an imaginary horizon they don’t have the courage to challenge. Instead of asking these women what their motivations are directly, Eileen Hofer prefers to let their gestures speak, an invisible but powerful form of subtitles, which say that which is rather not or cannot be expressed with words.
Horizontes is produced by Aline Schmid of Intermezzo Films, the Swiss representative at Producers on the Move.
(Translated from French)