Closing Gala - Viva

“at this film’s heart lies a real sense of tenderness.” - Caspar Llewellyn Smith, The Guardian

“all of the performances in this film are pitch perfect” - Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

In Paddy Breathnach’s beautiful new film, the critically acclaimed director of I Went Down and Man About Dog, turns his lens to the back-streets of Havana, in this courageously performed, dramatic portrait of Cuban life. Hector Medina shines brilliantly as the eponymous lead character, while Cathal Watters’ vibrant cinematography, and Stephen Rennicks’ Latin American score, evoke an extraordinary pathos - an effect that is further magnified when picture-perfect renditions of the idyllic, sun-bleached streets of Havana are put in contrast with some of the film’s harsher, back-street locations.

Living in a rundown apartment in Havana, 18-year-old Jesus ekes out a living by cutting his neighbour’s hair and prepping wigs for the performers at a nearby drag club. The club’s owner, Mama, lives up to her stage-name by providing support and offering employment to a host of drag queens who earn tips by passionately miming along to their signature ballads.

Drawn toward the glamour of the spotlight and also seeking acceptance, Jesus finds his way to the stage, and after adopting the alias ‘Viva’, he is soon one of the club’s top acts. Just as he is finding his feet, his father Angel shows up at the club after a fifteen year stint in prison, forces his way back into his son’s life, and takes up residence in Jesus’ tiny apartment. Not able to accept his son’s new profession, he forbids him to work at the club, but Jesus has to make ends meet, and in Havana there are much tougher ways to earn a living.

Dave Desmond Audi Dublin International Film Festival

With Special Guest Paddy Breathnach