Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fight for What You Want, Before Night Falls

Imagine a country where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment in a concentration camp. Imagine the ruler of your country banning books that spoke against him. Imagine a home with no laughter, smiles or joy.

Now imagine a young girl crying herself to sleep at night longing for her father. Imagine this girl as a woman, watching her beloved grandfather forget his loved ones. Imagine a country in which a person’s color determines the struggles they will endure and others will not.

Now realize that both of these situations are real.

The young girl is me and the citizen of the communist country was Reinaldo Arenas. He was born in the Province of Oriente, Cuba in 1943. His home life was plagued with miserable women and a gay-hating grandfather.

In the film, Before Night Falls, Javier Bardem, plays the gifted novelist and poet. His passion for this role drives the progression of this frown-on-your-forehead film.

Bardem’s ability to play a strong, sensitive, intellectual, homosexual kills the stereotype of the lisp talking, hips swaying, fag that most Hollywood films portray.

Even more amazing is the way this film transports the audience to the horror of the rebels taking over Cuba, the interrogation of men suspected of being queer, and the constant fear that plagued Reinaldo Arenas’ life and literary works.

During his adventures, Arenas encountered colorful characters including a wagon driver named Cuco Sanchez, played by Sean Penn. While his screen time is short, Cuco advises the pre-teen Reinaldo to go home and forget the rebels. But Arenas is an independent young man and goes after what he believes to be right.

His journey to join the rebels continues his foray to manhood that was initiated during his trips to the local prostitutes for oral sex.

The flaunting of his sexuality created danger in his life. His hatred of the Cuban government made him a wanted man. The publishing of his books internationally, without Castro’s consent, landed him in prison for two years.

However, while incarcerated he began a friendship with Bon-Bon and Lieutenant Victor, both played by Johnny Depp. As always, Depp, develops two unique characters and forces them to shock and titillate the audience.

Reinaldo is eventually released from prison, in 1976, after a violent punishment for an escape and renouncing his work. He applies for deportation from Cuba to America during the Mariel Boatlifts of 1980.

Once in America he was considered stateless and began a new life in New York City. His writing continued to gain him fame and accolades until his AIDS induced suicide in 1990.

His autobiography, Before Night Falls, was the inspiration for this film. The film inspired me to look deeply at the life of a man who fought for what he wanted and deserved. Writing gave him a voice in a world of hate and discrimination. Writing has been and will always be my expression of individuality. It saved me during the rough times and rewarded me during the happy times. Fortunately my victory is being won here on Earth. Reinaldo Arenas’ victory was celebrated in Heaven.


Vicki said...

This relly is a fantastic film. Javier Bardem is a great actor. It's a bit of a wake upp call that we are mostly all living fairly happy free lives when compared to the circumstances in this film.