Spurred by the success of La Playa (Best Film and Best Editor, Universal Studios’ Entertainment Industry Incubator contest), Cuban-American filmmakers Frank Quetglas and Zulieka Lopez gathered together family, friends and colleagues to take advantage of the 5-day production package prize and turn out a film before the December 2003 deadline.
It’s a minor miracle that anything was produced on such a tight schedule and smaller-than-shoestring budget. Freedom Flight should serve to inspire other backers that another project from this team would be worthy of investment, for lurking in its frames is a heady mix of passion, zest and creativity that should be nurtured.
No one will doubt that this is a comedy, but the script can’t decide what type. There’s much parody (Armando Roblan does a send-up of Fidel Castro that looks brilliant, but lacks a payoff), satire (General Hawkins chatting with “Dick and Bush” about shooting down the Air Cabaña jet, first resonates: Cheney “Take ’em down,” Bush “[wait] we need the Cuban vote,” then drifts into the silly zone as paper airplanes wiz about the Key West Command Center and a guard shoots off his rifle even as an officer attempts to unload his “gun” with a sultry co-worker), slapstick (the attendant team of Susan M. Flynn and Luis Celeiro punch and groin their way to economy-laughs with verve, while the fattest ass-cheeks in the cabin crush anything in their path), and bathroom (Cuban security agent Joe Perez, replete with “Kiss me” boxers, melts the air with his chunky flatulence and is, literally, asked to take it outside).
The toilet is also an important plop, er, plot point. Stowaway Vladimiro (Hugo Garcia, who’s the shining light on this sea of stereo-typical passenger list) has hidden in the shitter tank in order to get to Miami and reunite with his Disney-loving son. His rise from the morass—complete with reverse grunts in the effort to emerge from the tank—is a wonderful “tour de farce,” the level of which never returns.
The music tracks by Johnny Aguilo and Conjunto Progreso are crisp, clean and fun, allowing the production to soar when its dramatic engine threatens to stall.
On the excuse of “dangerous weather,” the Boeing 727 turns back for José Marti Airport, dashing the hopes of smugglers and fathers alike. But before you can say plot device, the burly security goon reveals mascara under his flag-branded eye patch, the dirty vicar (Eduardo Wasveiler) and his Radiohead “sister” (Jana Martinez) shift into marriage mode and wed the long-suffering Vladimiro to the American big-butt Tuta (Lourdes Simon, “but I have Cuban parts”) in order to thwart the U.S. authorities and, simultaneously, take a swipe at windy priests.
Rather than end, the film merely taxis off the screen as the loose bits are tied up by a TV reporter (from channel 69, er, get it?), stills and narrative captions, but not before another set of briefs are filled with crap.
Nonetheless, after a Margarita March, Freedom Flight could be just the ticket to a chuckle-fest that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Next time out, with the right combination of time, talent and cash, the result promises to fly higher than ever. Bring on the producers—we’ll be watching! JWR