Becoming Cuba playwright (and Huntington playwright-in-residence) Melinda Lopez drives a hard bargain, and her passion for plays with strong central female characters that explore the relationship between Cuba and the United States is only eclipsed by her love of zombie movies. Or at least, a particular zombie movie. That, yes, okay, it's technically about Cuba, but that's not the point...
Wait. Yes it is. That's precisely the point!
Juan of the Dead is not only the first zombie film shot on location in Havana, but it's also the latest entry in our Stage & Screen collaboration with the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The film follows (naturally) a zombie outbreak in Havana, which the characters quickly observe is actually not that far off from their daily life. The government insists that there's no zombie problem, and that there it's merely an invasion of political dissidents from the United States — but not to worry, because the buses are still running on time. Meanwhile Juan, the titular slacker of the film, takes advantage of the situation to finally do something with his life, and with the help of a few friends and his estranged daughter, he opens his own business — "Juan de Los Muertos. We kill your loved ones. How can we help you today?"
Hilarity, politics, and zombie evisceration ensue.
The screening will take place on Monday, March 10 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, and will feature a post-show talkback with Melinda Lopez herself, as well as Becoming Cuba director M. Bevin O'Gara. Here's what Melinda Lopez has to say about the film:
Juan of the Dead is so much more than a zombie movie. It’s an insightful, hilarious and sharp commentary on Cuban society, and it draws upon the ‘creation myths’ of that nation to tell the classic story of an underdog who saves the world—in this case, the crumbling ruin of Havana.
Juan of the Dead draws on many historical elements to create a movie that deconstructs Cuban history, including the War of Independence, Castro’s Revolution, the ‘special period’ and the exodus at Mariel, as well as the complex relations with Spain and the United States. But the film does this without overt political dogma. It’s just a band of survivors, misfits and warriors, bound together in an end-of-the-world battle. And really, what is more Cuban than finding yourself in the middle of the end-of-the-world… and figuring out how to make money?
My play, Becoming Cuba uses a lot of these same tropes. Revolutionaries (1898) with machetes, reclaiming their land from the oppressor (in this case, the Spanish double as the un-dead). The play centers on the widow and pharmacist Adela, as the revolution against Spain finally reaches Havana. But Adela doesn’t want to choose a side, because it’s bad for business. Adela’s brother is fighting with the rebels, and a handsome American reporter, one of Hearst’s men, is there to write the headline. And yes, there is a Conquistador who roams the streets of Havana remembering Columbus and the good old days.
Both Juan and Adela are cut from the same cloth. They are smart, scrappy and practical survivors. They are Cubans; at their most vibrant when faced with impossible obstacles. And both of them make a stand against tyranny. I love my play. And I love the movie Juan of the Dead. It’s made by a Cuban filmmaker, and it has nothing to do with the 1959 revolution and subsequent story line of the immigrant experience. The roots of this story go way back. If you are new to the zombie epidemic, I hope you’ll give it a chance. It might grow on you.
Like I said, she drives a hard bargain. Who could argue with that? But if you're still not convinced (or, like M. Bevin O'Gara, you really don't like zombie movies), then maybe the official trailer for the film will help change your mind: