Irish Abroad: Viva receives rapturous reception at premiere in Cuba

Irish/Cuban co-production film Viva had its Latin American premiere on Monday in Havana as part of the 37th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. The film screened at the historic Cine Yara, a 1650 seater venue in the Cuban capital. Such was the fervour for tickets that organisers screened the film again immediately after the premiere.

The Paddy Breathnach directed Spanish language drama was primarily filmed in Cuba, with some Irish shooting. The film is the story of Jesus, a young man growing up in Havana, who works as a hair and make-up artist for drag acts. His secret desire is to perform on stage, but he must choose between pursuing his dream and reconnecting with his father, who is newly released from prison.

The film, which is written by Irish actor and screenwriter Mark O’Halloran (Adam & Paul), stars Cuban actors Jorge Perugorría, Luis Alberto García and Héctor Medina. Cathal Watters (One Million Dubliners) is Director of Photography on the film, while Production Designer Paki Smith reunites with Breathnach, having previously worked together on Man About Dog.

Rebecca O’Flanagan and Robert Walpole produce for Treasure Entertainment, with funding from the Irish Film Board, Windmill Lane Pictures, RTÉ, and Treasure Entertainment. Nelson Navarro Navarro from Island Films in Cuba co-produced, with legendary actor Benecio Del Toro as acting as executive producer.

The filmmakers were invited to introduce the film to the native audience, who gave a standing ovation after each of the screenings. Writer O’Halloran spoke at premiere, saying that the essence of the feature film, its story, is based on the universal relationship between a father and a son.

Earlier this year Viva was selected to be the Irish entry for Best Foreign Language Film, by a panel of the Irish and Film Television Academy. The film played at the prestigious Toronto and Telluride film festivals, and will play at Sundance in February.

Magnolia Pictures acquired the US distribution rights and will release the film there February. No Irish release has been set as of yet.