YIDFF 2013 International Competition
Motherland or Death
An Interview with Vitaly Mansky (Director)

The Grey Sun

Q: As a person raised in Russia, how did you regard Cuba, the locale of this film?

VM: While filming, I felt a strong current of energy that’s genetically carried on in the Cuban people. The climate is warm and tropical, compared to Russia. That’s why people spend more time outdoors, in contact with the community. In cold regions, people hibernate indoors and tend to become introverted. While both countries run under socialist state systems, the climate differentiates the characteristic of the people. I think the Cuban people’s strong energy allows us to see, dramatically, how limited their personal freedom is. When I was 14–15 years old (in Russia), there were few people who knew firsthand of a world before the revolution. But in Cuba, whose revolution took place only 50 years ago, there are still people who remember the revolution and how life was before it. If you take the example of a zoo, it is like the difference between an animal who was caught from the wild and an animal who was born encaged.

Q: The opening scene shows corpses being dug up from their graves. Why did they have to be unearthed?

VM: Post-revolution Cuba is very poor and there are no resources to build new graves. While the family of the deceased usually pays for the grave, financial difficulties normally keep them from paying more than one year’s fee. That’s why the corpses are dug up a year after the burial and transferred to a wooden box that is kept in someplace like a warehouse. It is cheaper than the grave, but as this also costs money, eventually the remains are thrown out. This was beyond my imagination. It would be a nightmare if I had to unearth my dead father’s bones. If you remember the supervisor character in the film, he actually died in a traffic accident after the filming was complete. His bones have already been dug up.

Q: The girl’s sexy dancing struck my attention.

VM: Many teenage girls in Cuba are prostituting themselves. They do it not for new clothes or bags, but for the livelihood of their families and themselves. The shoemaker in the film also prostitutes himself to female tourists from abroad. That’s why he can live in such a nice house. The state pronounces that “Cuba is a wonderful country” while teenagers sell their bodies to make a living. Can that contradiction coexist in one person? Close your eyes for a minute and think about it.

Q: Would it be difficult to show this film in socialist Cuba?

VM: Yes, now it is virtually impossible. But I do also think that in the near future, this film will be able to be shown in Cuba. Whether this is an artistic film or not, it is undoubtedly an important historical record of the current reality in Cuba.

(Compiled by Shibasaki Narumi)

Interviewers: Shibasaki Narumi, Morikawa Miku / Interpreter: Okabayashi Naoko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Nogami Taka / Video: Uno Yukiko / 2013-10-12