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The Reeler Blog

This Week: Pioneer Packs One-Two Punch

Those were the days: A young Camila Guzmán Urzúa (center) in the Havana school days recalled in her new doc The Sugar Curtain (Photo: First Run/Icarus Films)

The noble gang at the Pioneer Theater, home to ReelerTV and most of the authentically indie cinema streaming through New York these days, offers a pretty great tandem of programs this week in the East Village. CineWomen NY, which hosts a regular screening event at the Pioneer, tonight offers a slate of award-winning student shorts from NYU and Columbia. Among them, look for Enrica Perez, the first winner of the Adrienne Shelly Award for Best Female Director (we told you about it last March). Perez's Taxista is a short glimpse at a Lima taxi driver ensnared in the underground business of buying and selling drunken passengers; she's joined by NYU's Student Academy Award-winner Megan Thompson (Ladies of the Land) and Amanda Laws (The Red Scare), The program starts at 7 p.m. and is followed by a reception; check CineWomen or the Pioneer's site for more information.

Wednesday begins a one-week run for Camila Guzmán Urzúa's documentary The Sugar Curtain, a poignant bit of memoir following the Cuban filmmaker back to a post-Cold War Havana that bears little resemblance to the thriving metropolis of her childhood. Guzmán Urzúa checks in with friends and family to discover what happened, revealing the devastating legacies of exile and embargo through the accounts of those who remain.

The personal touch is far too self-aware -- the director throws her shadow into arty would-be tracking shots and mirror reflections into interviews that are haunting enough without her -- but The Sugar Curtain's overall attention to detail powers striking storytelling. Her eye for blight and the hulking skeletons of pageantry and power conveys all the memories Guzmán Urzúa really needs: "Bit by bit, the illusion dissolved," she narrates, sending off an era when it was easier for Cubans not to ask questions. But as an old pal who remained behind half-laughs, "If everyone leaves, who's going to stay?", The Sugar Curtain reveals the high cost and enduring anguish of learning the truth.

Posted at July 24, 2007 7:46 AM

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