This film should come with a warning: make sure to wear waterproof mascara!
Seriously though – no surprise at all that it was put forward for nomination for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. With Benicio Del Toro on board as executive producer, the film was written by Irish Screenwriter, Mark O’Halloran, who also plays a cameo role. Directed by Paddy Breathnach, produced by Robert Walpole, Cathleen Dore and Rebecca Flanagan, [Treasure Films] and anchored by a superb cast of actors, collectively they have created a sublime and authentic Cuban film.
Set in Havana, Viva tells the tale of Jesus, played by Héctor Medina, a hairdresser and sometimes hustler who dreams of becoming a drag queen performer – and you literally cannot take your eyes off this incredible actor! When Mama, the queen, owner and headline act of his underground drag club – Luis Alberto Garcia, superbly cast in the role of mentor to Jesus – gives him a chance to be on stage, a violent stranger appears, proclaiming to be his estranged father, Angel, played by Jorge Perugorria. Just released from prison, a former boxer, Perugorria’s every scene is a simmering, tense performance. Father and son are forced together now as the very flawed and menacing Angel takes up uninvited residence in the family home where Jesus has struggled to survive; these men could not be more opposite.
With all of the elements that you would expect from an O’Halloran screenplay, humour, pathos, realism and a very relatable dilemma, Viva stands out, not just for the authentic, mesmerising performances from the main players, the punch-perfect soundtrack, and the sticky, crumbling decadence of the city of Havana, the beautiful slum, as Angel describes it, every character in this film is empathic and fully-formed. Put Viva on your ‘must see’ list. You won’t be disappointed.