Film Review: Conducta (Behavior)

Film Review: BEHAVIOR (Conducta)
26th Palm Springs International Film Festival
(Official submission of Cuba to the Academy Awards)

Saw "Behavior" from director Ernesto Daranas in Palm Springs and it's an instant favorite!

It's a moving portrait of a life-long public school teacher, Carmela, who has dedicated all her life pursuing only the best for her marginalized students. It also tells the story of a young kid, Chala, one of Carmela's impoverished students, who had to train dogs for fighting and trade pigeons so he can make money for himself and for his irresponsible mother.

The movie tells us their story but it also gives us a glimpse of Cuba and the children that the country is raising. It's bleak and quite depressing but the movie pays tribute to the importance of proper education and the selflessness of teachers in third world countries. In a communist country like Cuba, a teacher holds one of the most powerful positions in society and the movie could have used this theme and go overtly political but it did not. Applause, applause!

What we get instead is a subtle indictment of the structure that plagues every poor country and makes the system unfair to the poor and the marginalized through the story of a teacher who has spent all of her life lightly treading these unjust rules and working hard each day to give her students a reason to hope, an opportunity to dream and the freedom to express themselves -- and when the same rigid rules are used to try to stop her, you know she'll never have it. Nope!

I love movies about teachers.Teaching is a vocation. Our teachers are our second parents and we should celebrate them always.

The young kid who plays Chala (Armando Valdes Freire) and the magnificent Alina Rodríguez who plays Carmela are both marvelous. This movie will most likely be compared to other movies in the past bearing the same theme but this one, though a work of fiction, is a story of hope. And the final scene was just the perfect ending to the chapter we saw but an invitation to hope that in those exhange of simple greetings, a change has occured and a brighter future has now been made possible. Oh, in the movies, we can always dream!

Rating: 5 Stars

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