Temps Noir, the French documentary production powerhouse behind Mediawan Rights sales hits “Kubrick by Kubrick” and “Cinecittà: Making of History,” has boarded “Passengers for the Last Trip,” the fiction feature debut of Cuba’s Marta María Borrás (“Atardecer en el Trópico”).
It will hit Spain’s Malaga Festival Fund & Co-Production Event (MAFF) this March as the most laureled of Latin America’s projects in the showcase.
Put through a near-dozen development programs, and scooping plaudits at Guadalajara’s Co-Production Meeting and Ventana Sur’s Punto Género, it has won at least six prizes.
Now in advanced development, “Passengers for the Last Trip” (“Los pasajeros del último viaje”) is produced by Dany Celeiro Rodríguez, a Cuban Mexico-based visual artist, executive producer and alum of Cuba’s San Antonio de los Baños International Film-TV School (EICTV). It is now co-produced by Colombia’s Galaxy 311 and France’s Temps Noir.
Also written by Borras, the social drama delivers a probing take on the huge economic pressures exerted on Latin America’s basic unit, the family, and the radical resorts forced upon a younger generation of Cubans now not looking to deepen its Revolution but merely survive.
In it, Laura, a destitute young single mother who has come to Havana a couple of years before – her part time job hardly pays the rent – gets to know an elderly neighbour, who has spent her life supporting Castro’s revolution but now is old and alone, suffering Alzheimer’s dementia. Desperate, Laura’s move into her flat and begins to look after her, while impersonating her daughter.
“The story of the struggle for survival in a world which is on the brink of collapse,” said Borrás, “Passengers” “talks about memory. The characters have forgotten their past, and have wanted to erase their memories,” the director told Variety. “What’s happened with the dream of constructing a better society for everyone?”
Laura is played by Lulú Piñera, Felicia by Paula Alí, co-star of “Cartas del Parque,” “Guantanamera,” co-directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío.
“The actresses have two different ways of looking at the world, given their generational experiences which also happens to their characters, priming their work and casting, as well as a strong need to play characters which are psychologically complex and dialog about and question contemporary Cuba,” Borrás added. “I’m interested in tabling questions like: What are families in the current day? What does the word ‘future’ mean in Cuba?”
“As a producer I’m interested in talking about present-day problems in Latin America and the artistic and identity values of our culture,” said Celeiro Rodríguez.
He added: “I feel a strong necessity to talk about family, emigration, love, maternity, solitude, pain and the lifestyle of young generations who are battling to stay afloat, trying to forge a better future than their present, searching for freedom and independence. Addressing these themes from a different posture and with a fresher take than we’re used to seeing is my principal motive for taking this path.”
“I know Cuba well, having lived, worked and returned there regularly for over 20 years. For me, Marta’s film tells the exact situation in which the island seems to find itself. Far from folklore or caricatures, her film shows a country in which the state, whether we consider it socialist and protective or authoritarian and oppressive (or both at the same time), has in reality completely disappeared from people’s lives,” said Tancrède Ramonet, the film’s producer at Temps Noir and director of “No Gods, No Masters,” an Arte Distribution-sold doc series on anarchism released in 2020.
“Its main character, Laura, finds herself alone and must try to ‘resolver’ as the Cubans say, that is to say solve all the problems of life in addition to the political, economic and geopolitical difficulties of the island,” he added. “How do you pay your rent while finding eggs to bake a cake for your daughter’s birthday? This film, directed by one of the most talented directors of her generation and by one of the best young producers, both Cubans, offers a critique that is all the more interesting because it is internal.”
Temps Noir has made a large number of documentaries about Cuba and Latin America such as “Cuba, the Revolution and the World,” co-produced with Arte and the BBC and “The African Odyssey of Cuba,” by Jihan El Tahri ,which was commissioned by ITVS, the BBC and Arte and broadcast in more than 80 countries around the world.
For several years, the French production house has been developing and producing or co-producing fiction titles inspired by real events or whose story has a very strong documentary dimension.
One case in point: In 2022, it produced “The Tiger and the President,” about a French President suffering from burn out in the 20’s. Temps Noir co-produced “Arnold is a Model Student,” which told the life of a young Thai at the time of high school revolts in Thailand.
These films were presented at Locarno, Rotterdam and New York’s Lincoln Center New Directors/New Films festival. “With its already multi-awarded script, its ambition in terms of direction, its very modern aesthetic and its originality, we believe that ‘Passengers’ is destined for a great destiny,” Ramonet told Variety.
“Kubrick by Kubrick” won a 2021 Intl. Emmy Award and a Unifrance Best Documentary Export Prize.