The following is one of the entries from my list of the 100 greatest films (through 2006) from Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Argentinian-born Carlos Marcovich made ¿Quién diablos es Juliette? in Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. He co-wrote (with Carlos Cuarón), produced, directed, (gorgeously) cinematographed, and edited the film, which fuses documentary and scripted material. Yuliet Ortega is an ebullient 16-year-old Havana prostitute. The film runs parallel/intersecting courses, attending also to Fabiola Quíroz, a Mexican model with whom Yuliet appeared in one of Marcovich’s music videos—in a sense, Yuliet’s alternative, better existence, but one hiding considerable misfortune. Marcovich records remarks by both and family members of theirs. Film scholar Brooke Jacobson has perfectly described the film as being all the more heartrending for being so lightly presented.
The film opens with a visual tweak: Yuliet’s wiping the camera that’s filming her as she addresses us. The gesture passes quickly; it may be meaningless—or does it show that Yuliet wants us to see her clearly? It possibly confirms Yuliet’s reality (for her, for us) by confirming ours. Its poignancy perhaps derives from its emotional location between both possibilities. Rather than interpenetrating, documentary and fiction in this film exist where either may be the other or is on the verge of becoming the other, underscoring the elusiveness of Yuliet’s reality even as she discloses specific facts about herself, such as her family’s abandonment fifteen years earlier by her father, an electrician whom we meet in New Jersey. (Yuliet’s younger brother, without irony, explains that their father is “slow in returning.”) Yuliet’s mother committed suicide. Yuliet’s phone call to her father brandishes anger and hatred that her brother describes as hiding love. The father and others very differently recount his killing the family dog after it attacked one of his sons. He feels that his wife abandoned him by not coming along with him.
Reality: unresolved, ambiguous, complex.
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