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Documentary shows a taste of Cuba, a lesson in cultural understanding

2011/02/22 | 638 views | Permalink | Source

A poster shows a documentary titled "Cuban Boyfriend".

By Kelly Francis

Six years ago, Korean film maker and York University graduate student Joung Ho-hyun decided she needed a break from the harsh Canadian winter. She capitalized on Canada's close ties with Cuba and brought her filming equipment along for the ride. What she found was a husband, a new life, and a new way of looking at her own country. You can experience her story by watching "Cuban Boyfriend", currently playing at Media Theater i-Gong with Korean and English subtitles.

"I was interested in seeing a new culture, and also, the fact that Cuba is a socialist country" said Joung. "After my initial vacation, I returned to Cuba after just 20 days. I saw that there were lessons I could learn from the Cuban people. Then I fell in love, and the direction of my work began to change".

Joung met Orlievis Padron, a 23-year-old graphic designer from La Habana who made the transition from Cuban "boyfriend" to husband in 2007.

A charismatic documentary, "Cuban Boyfriend" depicts the 3-year journey of the couple, from the first "boy-meets-girl" to Padron's initiation into Korean society. Mainly, it ventures into the minds and hearts of the Cuban people through Joung's eyes. The film is informative, and yet you can expect plenty of laughs and a few tense moments-after all, contrast is one of the recurring themes as Joung candidly explores issues such as politics, human judgment and religion-not to mention the hurdles Padron encounters as he struggles to integrate into Korean society as a husband and father.

"I want people to be able to see themselves-and to examine their thoughts and behavior as they really happened in the film", said Padron, who was responsible for the film's upbeat musical score and quirky computer graphics (CG) elements. He invites insight into his most vulnerable moments with Joung as the couple faces culture shock, racial discrimination, pre-wedding jitters and an on-going struggle for two distinctly different cultures to meet in an "inspired compromise".

"I came from a country that is too open-minded and I arrived in one that is warm, but very closed and restrained by rules", said Padron, reflecting on his arrival in Korea with mixed emotions. "I feel like I have two audiences, and two messages. I want Cubans to understand the value in what they have: the simplicity of life, and the beauty of the country. I want Koreans to be aware that all countries and cultures have value-no matter what their economic status may be".

The sentiment was echoed by Joung, who added: "Cubans have the ability to rejoice in their humanity and forget social status".

Dance lends an entertaining element to the production. Padron explains that dance plays a pivotal role in Cuban culture and identity; serving as both an outlet for expression and a common thread of connection. Jung heartily agrees.

"Sometimes, I couldn't tell if they worked as they danced or they danced as they worked", she mused. "The Cubans are a very open, expressive people-this is how they cope".

Padron is contemplative as he reflects upon his journey.

"In Cuba, everyone is waiting for advancement. In Korea, people move too fast. We can learn from each other. Nothing is perfect, but this is life and life is good if you appreciate what you have- and that is the main point: understanding what you have, while you have it".

To learn more about the film, visit

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