“Cuba is in my heart,” says Cuban actor Reynaldo Miravalles, one of the leading characters in Esther en alguna parte, Gerardo Chijona’s latest feature film
Cuban actor Reynaldo Miravalles (Havana, 1923), at 89 years of age, plays one of the leading roles in Esther en alguna parte, the most recent feature film by director Gerardo Chijona.
The work is an adaptation for the screen of the homonymous novel by recently deceased writer, editor and scriptwriter Eliseo Alberto (Lichy) Diego, who had been living in Mexico since 1992.
Miravalles, a popular Cuban TV and film actor living in Miami since 1994, is remembered for his roles as farmer Melesio (on TV) and Cheíto León, a counterrevolutionary armed insurgent in The Man from Maisinicú, a feature film from 1972. Now he plays Lino Catalá in this Cuban-Peruvian co-production, with the script by Chijona himself together with playwright and theater director Eduardo Eimil.
“I am extremely satisfied to have been able to act in a film of such quality. If I hadn’t liked it I would have been working in the United States, but since the script is extraordinarily good and Chijona is an excellent director, I am enjoying it very much,” Reinaldo Miravalles commented to the Cuban press.
Esther en alguna parte brings together numerous Cuban actors and actresses, among them Enrique Molina – who has the other leading role – as well as National Film Prizewinners Daisy Granados and Eslinda Núñez, and figures of the stature of Alberto Pujols, Luis Alberto García and Laura de la Uz.
“The cast is exceptional. Chijona has selected all the good actors and actresses. In my opinion it will be an extraordinary film because of the quality of the performers. The characters in Esther en alguna parte are very difficult to play. Initially there is aggressiveness; very conflictive situations, very interesting contradictions.”
After 20 years of absence, Miravalles returns to Cuban cinema in a story where, among other ingredients, love is also present.
“I pay no attention to commentaries. I simply do what I think is correct. I am not making politics. If I thought this movie wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be here. This is my homeland. And the film I am making bothers no one.
”I live in another country but I have my children and friends in Cuba. I’ve never had any problem with them. At a distance, what I most recall is Cuba. I only hope people will like the film.”
Miravalles met Lichy personally during a visit he paid to Cuba in February 2010 for the premiere of the feature film Cercanía (2008), by Rolando Díaz, during the Young Filmmakers’ Festival in Havana.
“I met him here and applauded him because throughout my entire career I have never found a book as well written as this one, with such Cuban flavor, and that is fabulous. The script is superb. If it didn’t have that merit, I wouldn’t have made the film.”
In Cercanía, a film dealing with the life of Cuban immigrants in Miami, Miravalles played one of the main roles.
“When I have to represent a character abroad I cannot speak like the Cubans. If the film is made by Spaniards, there I can interpret a Cuban. We have an accent that foreigners seldom notice.”
Right now, Díaz is shooting a documentary about Miravalles’s life. As part of the shooting in Miami, the Cuban actor went to a show with a group of dancers performing Cuban music. There he could verify to what great extent people remember his memorable interpretations.
“When the public saw me, they began to clap. It gave me great joy, and I was so touched that I started crying. People came out of a bar to greet me. My hair stands on end when I recall that day.”
Farmer Melesio, made popular by Cuban television, delighted the public during the 1980s with his popular wit and Cuban guile. With this character, in which many still remember him, he obtained very high rating.
“I am very happy because during my career I have been preferred by the Cuban people. They greet me with affection. I have the same affection for them. I play all characters with fondness because I like all the films in which I act.
”In fact, I have taken part in many successful films. I learned step by step. When I first wanted to be an actor I didn’t even know how to speak. Little by little I learned until I became a professional.”
Miravalles also worked on the radio, where he made his debut in 1944, and on television and the theater. However, he does not deny his preference for cinema, a medium that earned him several prizes and acknowledgments in films like De tal Pedro tal astilla, El corazón sobre la tierra and Mascaró, el cazador americano.
“I like all media, but most of all, cinema. It’s better because it is more unhurried. One gradually becomes more and more enthusiastic. Today you play a bad guy, then a good one. They are different characters. That is something I did achieve: my characters are not the same. In each film I play a different character.”
For many Cuban actors and actresses, Miravalles’s return to the national film industry is a true act of justice and the possibility to learn from his mastery. This film opens a window that could remain open.
“If I like the film of another Cuban director, it’s possible that I’ll return to Cuba. But when you are 89, you are not so much requested,” he states with his particular sense of humor, not looking his age and retaining his old elegance.
“This film has to do with old people; if not, they wouldn’t have invited me. The most famous U.S. actors and actresses are at their homes, not on the screen, because cinema is for the young; there they have to run, jump and fall in love.”
Translated by Olimpia Esperanza Sigarroa Santamarina
Revised by Susana Hurlich