We’ve got a talented team working for us at Havana Glasgow Film Festival, and it’s a real pleasure to be presenting the UK premiere of a film scripted by the festival’s co-director, Hugo Rivalta, at this year’s festival. We’ve been eager for this from some time, since Hugo started working on the kids’ sex education animated series “Pubertad” with animator Ernesto Pina. “La Super” (Supergirl) is a midlength animated film following the progress of Jevalentina, an indigenous woman warrior whose spirit comes back to inspire Yudeisi, a young chemistry teacher, to become a superhero and make a stand against all the sexist creeps who make the lives of the women in City X – it truly could be anywhere – such a misery. With its satire aimed firmly at the patriarchy, it’s a welcome addition to the canon of films empowering young women and girls to stand up for themselves, and could be seen as a useful Cuban counterpart to Barbie, though unlike its American sister, it’s not trying to flog you dolls or related merch. I asked Hugo about some of the challenges in making this film, especially when you’re male filmmakers.
Why did you choose – as men – to make a feminist film?
The original idea for the film came from its director, Ernesto Pina, then between the two of us we worked on the plot, and later, on the script. For me as a man, taking the job was very natural. I believe that in a society, instead of creating groups and locking ourselves in trenches, we should all worry about each other’s problems and create alliances. Violence against women and girls is an issue that deserves special attention, due to the severe damage it generates in society, and that is why I enthusiastically agreed to take part in this project. We did not write for the film to be part of a feminist campaign, but in the story, the main character is a woman, she becomes involved in a feminine conflict, and receives the support and solidarity of the majority of women, who, it turns out, is related to its cause. Therefore, yes, it could be considered a feminist film. However, something curious in the story is that the feminists of City X do not consider the presence of a superheroine necessary to help them confront sexist violence.
Do you think there are any insights that into sexism that you – as a man – can provide that a female filmmaker can’t?
My parents raised me on the basis of respect for girls and women. I my family, I have never witnessed a case of abuse against women, and when we learned of an event of this type in my neighbourhood, my parents immediately criticised this kind of violence, and were looking for some way to show solidarity with the abused woman. For some strange reason, I always told the person who was my girlfriend at the time and who is my wife today, that I wanted to be the father of two girls. Today, I am the father of two girls, and this has given me from the first instance a revised vision of the feminine issue, the biology, the emotions, and the social challenges that women face. Of course women, and in particular women filmmakers, know better than me, and suffer to a greater extent from all these problems, but the director of the film an I never hesitated to take on the challenge of visualising through animation, this topic with a strong social impact.
I don’t think it’s helpful when you only see the Black population, or only women demanding respect for their rights. When I hear that only a Black person can express what black people feel, or that only a woman can talk about her dilemmas, I am horrified. I don’t know what would have happened to me as a Black man if my many white friends had not helped me with my problems, and I had not helped them with theirs. Our objective as filmmakers was never to be more original than a female filmmaker, not to express their confrontation with sexual violence ‘better’ than them, but rather, from our masculine sensibility, to show the conflict from another perspective. Perhaps a female filmmaker would have been more intimate or poetic, we chose to tell a story of action.
Why did you choose to make an animated film?
Ernesto Pina, the director, is a prestigious cartoon director, who invited me to participate in the project. I mostly write scripts, which are made with real actors and actresses, but after joining the group of scriptwriters for the award-winning Cuban animated series “Pubertad”, Pina, who mostly expresses himself through animation, invited me to write “La Super”. I think it was a success to make this film as animation, because of the novelty that approaching the subject in cartoons represents in our country. This also allowed Pina to develop certain codes that are very present in the aesthetic of his animations, such as humour, his characteristic graphic design of characters, and their way of speaking. At the same time it was a challenge, because sometimes people can be very condescending, and think that it is only entertainment for children, but our objective is for the public to have a good time, and above all, to stop for a moment, to think about the social problems that the story addresses.
One of the aspects I loved about the film was the hand drawn animation. Why did you make that decision?
Pina is in love with the 2D technique, and in this case, he wanted to use it with more reason, because it seemed to him to bring the viewer closer to the characters and the history. The 3D technique – which is also used in some sequences of the film – perhaps e to him that it would create a certain distance. 2D is the technique that the animators in our studios mastered best at that time, and therefore, given the technological complexity of 3D, this was the most feasible technique to achieve an agile production.
Who is the intended audience for the film, and what would you like them to take away from it?
It is not a film for boys and girls, rather it is for adults, it takes place in a world of adults and they are its main protagonists. The film does not seek to send a direct message, but rather tries to remind the audience – through the codes of animation – that there are women and girls suffering from sexual violence, and that together we must face the problem.
How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Pina had the primary idea of the story, a superheroine helping the women of a city confront abusive men. From that point, between the two of us, we created and developed the villain Basilio and the rest of the characters, their stories revealing that the city is experiencing, as a product of patriarchy. We developed the characters of strong women and girls, who despite the violence exerted on them, were able to resist, recover and confront their abusers. Of course, women and me are different from a biological point of view, but I am one of those who think women are much stronger than us, although some men have more muscles. Here, I am not only referring to physical strength, but also to her intelligence, tenacity and capacity for resilience, which is why almost all the female characters in the film are shown to be acting from positions of non-conformity and rebellion. The intention was always that, women and girls in situations of abuse, and those who can help them, would see that type of psychology reflected on the screen, that woman who is not satisfied with her misfortune, and seek to emancipate herself.