GA Voice - - Araats Re­views En­ter­tain­ment -

It goes back a long way. I had been on hol­i­days to Cuba and by ac­ci­dent came across a drag show in a ho­tel in the mid­dle of nowhere. I was very taken by a mo­ment where a per­former came on­stage and gave a strong, emo­tion­ally evoca­tive per­for­mance. We had spo­ken to a few women be­fore in the au­di­ence and one was cry­ing. I asked her why and she said “that is my brother and the only time he is happy is when he is on­stage.” I didn’t know much about that world at all and I said I wanted to look into it more. I went back to Cuba again and saw some acts. What struck me was the level of im­pro­vi­sa­tion and cre­ation that (the per­form­ers) use to trans­form.

How long did it take to make it?

My first trip was in 1996. We re­ally didn’t start work­ing on this un­til 2007. Be­fore that it was an idea.

How coun­try? is Cuba as an LGBT-friendly

It be­gan to change of­fi­cially over the last 10 years and more con­cretely with the in­volve­ment of Mariela Cas­tro, the daugh­ter of Raul Cas­tro and niece of Fidel. She had an in­ter­est in gen­der stud­ies and of­fi­cially pushed the regime for change. Fidel him­self had said treat­ment of gays in Cuba had not been right and they wanted to change that. I think on the streets things have got­ten eas­ier but I don’t think that cul­ture changes overnight. It takes awhile. It’s not all rosy in the gar­den.

Tell us about Je­sus. ‘Viva’

Je­sus is a per­son who has not found his voice in life. He is kind of meek. He sees in this world of drag artists a chance to show his power and strength. In many ways that is one of the themes of the film. What seems like weak­ness turns out to be strength. Fem­i­nin­ity in men tra­di­tion­ally has been seen to be a weak­ness but it can be a strength. He is used a bit at the start of the film, but when his fa­ther re­turns and tries to dom­i­nate him and place him in a con­text he un­der­stands, he re­sists that.

How hard is it to for­give his fa­ther?

His de­sire to re­con­nect with his fa­ther is greater than his de­sire to not for­give him. It seems to be his na­ture. He is able to get his fa­ther to see the light, and ex­press his love for his son

How did you make the drag scenes so au­then­tic?

I was very con­cerned with try­ing to cap­ture that world and rep­re­sent it truth­fully. Some of the per­form­ers are from drag shows. For the ac­tors that I cast in the roles, I put a lot of em­pha­sis on the au­di­tions and the re­hearsals. The ac­tors re­ally needed to put a lot into it.

‘Viva’ opens for At­lanta au­di­ences at Mid­town Art Cin­ema on May 20. (Public­ity photo)

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