Cuba’s first psycho-horror feature film to be screened in Miami

The Cuban filmmaker Rudy Riveron (L) and the actress Gabriela Ramos (R) in an interview with EFE on March 2, 2019 in Miami Florida. EPA- EFE/Jorge Ignacio Perez

The Cuban filmmaker Rudy Riveron (L) and the actress Gabriela Ramos (R) in an interview with EFE on March 2, 2019 in Miami Florida. EPA- EFE/Jorge Ignacio Perez


Cuban director Rudy Riveron, whose work is inspired by Polanski, Bergman and Hitchcock, and who grew up watching Soviet anti-hero films, will screen his movie “Is That You?” on Monday at the Miami International Film Festival, giving the audience an opportunity to watch the first psychological horror film made in Cuba.

Riveron, who was born in Holguin in 1972, said in an interview with EFE at the Miami Beach hotel where he is staying that there are differences between psychological horror movies and “thrillers.”

“In psychological horror, the protagonist recreates an element that could be a product of his imagination, something that scares him from the outside and disturbs him,” the director said. “In a thriller, the protagonist attacks directly, to avenge something less subjective.”

“Is That You?” took six years to complete and was produced in the United Kingdom, telling the story of an estranged family with a “suffocating dominant father” who disappears and the actions of his 13-year-old daughter in her search for her father.

Her hunt becomes a spiritual mix of Santeria with the “laws” of metaphysics in an oppressive environment, highlighted by the work of veteran cinematographer Raul Perez Ureta.

Riveron said he was proud to have stayed away from the stereotypes of Cuban films and the culture that surrounds the country in general.

“I wanted the audience to focus on the psychological problems of the characters. The tempo helped me create a clausterphobic atmosphere and draw attention at the same time,” Riveron, who is based in Britain, said.

The Cuban director took a course on screenwriting and created his own production company in the UK.

“Living in England for 17 years, studying and researching (horror cinema) and taking a screenwriting workshop for five months in Canada, helped me a lot,” Riveron said.

The filmmaker said he was influenced by "(Roman) Polanski, Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier (and) Alfred Hitchcock,” as well as by the movies and animated works of the former USSR, where all of the protagonists were antiheroes.”

“I had the idea of the girl confronting the family and decided to put her in Cuba because I also discovered that it would be the first movie of its kind to be filmed there,” Riveron said.

The film’s star, Gabriela Ramos, sighed when asked about the experience.

“I made the film when I was 16 and now I’m 19,” the acting student, who was given a “special” permit to be in the cast, said.

Ramos won the Seymour Cassel Award at the 2018 Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany, where she arrived just five minutes before the premiere of “Is That You?”

The actress also worked on "Últimos días en La Habana” (Last Days in Havana), directed by Fernando Perez, and won the Best Supporting Actress award at Spain’s Malaga Film Festival and Best Actress at the Latin American film festival in Biarritz, France.

Riveron’s film will be screened on Monday during the 36th Miami International Film Festival after being shown in San Francisco last week.

The film will be screened later this month at the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

The director said the movie had not been shown in Cuba, adding that it would be difficult to screen on the island because “of legal considerations in England.”

By Jorge Ignacio Perez