Working title: Martí, a Movie

 

2023 (expected), fictionalized reenactment, 120 minutes, digital

This project, at present in the writing stage, is part of larger a study on the decolonizing

potential of actoral impersonation in the context of Latin American and Caribbean

historical cinema.

 

Synopsis: In the late 1980s, the Cuban government began planning the production of a film

based on the life of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero. Tony Carvajal, a popular actor in his mid

30s was chosen for the role. But despite strikingly similar personalities, according to the producers, obvious physical differences needed to be addressed: Martí, a white man of Spanish descent,

slightly bald, average height and thin; Carvajal, a mixed-race Cuban, short and stout. After several laborious and painful plastic surgeries, (involving mentoplasty, otoplasty, buccal fat reduction,

rhinoplasty, lower rhytidectomy, and gynecomastia), that made Carvajal look—almost—like Martí,

the economic crisis that shook Cuba in the beginning of the 1990s, caused by the collapse of the

Soviet Union, forced the Cuban Institute of Cinematic Arts and Industries (ICAIC) to cancel the production. And Carvajal, permanently entrapped within the body of the historical character that he

never got the chance to interpret on set, started wandering around the city of Havana, as the

ghostly presence of Martí, baffled by a constantly changing reality whose meaning he attempted to

grasp through the hero’s eyes. For those watching, Carvajal’s social performance had an uncanny

and unsettling effect, provoking them to contemplate the socio-political circumstances of the 1990s

through the lens of the Island’s colonial period.