Paraíso - New Yorker Films



Paraíso - New Yorker Films
Writer, Producer, Director
Executive Producer
Line Producer/Production Manager
Directors of Photography
Production Designer/Art Director
Supervising Sound Editor
Original Score by
Songs by
Music Supervisor
Based on “Paradise” by
Post Production Supervisor
Associate Producers
Bic’s Mother
Young Iván
Young Flaco
USA, 2009
In Spanish with English subtitles, Color and B&W
100 min., Unrated
1.78, Dolby Digital
Paraíso is the new and final film of what its writer/director León Ichaso calls his “Cuban Trilogy”
– a trilogy that began with the award-winning and critically acclaimed El Súper (1979), was
followed with Bitter Sugar (1996), and ends with Paraíso (2009). All three very personal,
independent films have had their premieres at the Miami International Film Festival – before
going on to the international film festival circuit.
After working on high-budget Hollywood films – like Piñero with Benjamin Bratt and El Cantante
with Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez in 2007– Ichaso went back to his beginnings as an
independent filmmaker, choosing to do a totally independent $30,000 project shot entirely in
Miami with a crew of ten people, including four Miami Dade College film students.
An example in teamwork, collaboration and true love for cinema, of which Ichaso, Cuban-born
and a New York resident since his 20s, feels very proud of; in Paraíso he also discovered the
talent of new actors as well as new musicians, while bringing to the screen a stunning and
haunting vision of a new Miami. Hand in hand with this support, he also received the cooperation
of a community where he feels at home and whose respect he has earned, from his early days
as an experimental filmmaker in the ’60s, to his days directing of Miami Vice, and back.
With Paraíso, Ichaso turns the clock forward and explores the myth of “the new man” with a
story that takes on a “rafter” following his exit from “a country frozen in time” – Cuban dreams
gone wrong, and a Miami of “no returns”; a controversial and subversive taste of an “imagined
With a haunting and innovative music score by Alfredo Triff, and songs by Boleros Perdidos,
Marco Rizo, Palomino Diaz, German Pifferrer, and Descemer Bueno and Cubiche, the music is an
intrinsic part of the storytelling.
The film also features stunning performances by Miguel Gutiérrez, Adrián Más, Lili Rentería,
Tamara Melián, Ariel Texido, Juan David Ferrer, Larry Villanueva, Aliani Sánchez, and many other
Miami-based actors.
The art direction of Luis Soler – and the photography of Henry Vargas and Henry Lynk – shows a
Miami beyond the stereotypes. Produced by Ichaso and Lisa Rhoden Boyd (his collaborator from
Bitter Sugar and Piñero), Paraíso features the heart and soul of a town suspended in the political
clash of a “fifty year Revolution that has already expired, trying to make itself eternal.”
The first screening of Paraíso in Miami created nothing short of controversy and praise for its
courageous and confrontational approach to the subject of the never-ending arrivals – this time,
a thriller with a “balsero” as the protagonist of the tale.
Through El Súper, Crossover Dreams, Sugar Hill, Bitter Sugar, Piñero, El Cantante, and
numerous television shows, Ichaso brings to Miami “more than a new film”: his love and
commitment to a country and its people.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
An Open Road Distribution presentation of a Camino Verde Films production. Produced by
Lisa Rhoden. Directed, written by Leon Ichaso. With: Adrian Mas, Miguel Gutierrez, Tamara
Melian, Lili Renteria, Ariel Texido. (Spanish, English dialogue)
Following 1979's "El Super" and 1996's "Bitter Sugar," "Paraiso" reps the final, bleakest entry
in Leon Ichaso's widely spaced Cuban trilogy. At its center prowls a supposed representative of
Fidel Castro's vaunted "new man," in the form of a personable young sociopath. Luckily, one
need not share Ichaso's political beliefs to appreciate his portrait of an opportunistic killer
insinuating himself, like a cancer, in an already fragile emigre community. Handsomely belying
its reputed $30,000 budget, "Paraiso" detonates its protag's restless energy amid the luxury
haunts of the rich. Theatrical prospects appear iffy, but the nervy pic could shine in ancillary.
Having braved stormy seas on a raft, Ivan (Adrian Mas) washes up in Florida to join the father he
never met, legendary radio personality Remigio (Miguel Gutierrez), who bemusedly welcomes his
lost son into his fabulous, art-filled beachfront home.
Ivan's star rises quickly. When a low-level job falls through, Ivan's clandestine affair with his
dad's longtime mistress (Lili Renteria) snags him a one-shot modeling gig that soon has his
photo plastered across billboards, causing dreams of Hollywood stardom to dance in his head.
But Ivan's idyllic existence is menaced by a small-time crook from his past. Forced, or so he
believes, to exterminate the threat before it destroys him, he starts to imagine threats
everywhere and sets about eliminating them -- even the adventuresome gamine (Tamara Melian)
he's fallen in love with.
Ichaso's layered editing style, applying staccato images like tiny brushstrokes, proves especially
suitable for capturing the jittery nature of a creature whose survivalist instincts don't allow him to
see further than the next enemy. HD lensing carves depths in the nighttime streets and blurs
the limits of the daylit ocean, creating a mirage-like cityscape quite distinct from those in Ichaso's
old "Miami Vice" episodes.
Ichaso also nails the smoke-filled ambiance of the latenight radio station where Remigio spins his
anecdotal, quasi-poetic musings. Ichaso's own father was a Cuban radio celeb who stayed in his
homeland for five years after his family fled, and the helmer's depiction of Remigio's moral
makeup, tinged with a certain self-satisfied complacency, reads ambiguously.
Obviously a first-class bon vivant and remarkable raconteur, Remigio leaves much to be desired
as a responsible parent. While he soon suspects Ivan may not be his son, or at least not one he
wants to foist on Miami, he does nothing, fearful of endangering his comfortable lifestyle.
Ichaso's corrosive vision of humanity, drowning itself on the shores of paradise, finally spares no
Camera (color/B&W, HD), Henry Lynk, Henry Vargas; editors, Juan Carlos Garza, Sebastian
Jimenez; music, Alfredo Triff; music supervisor, Ken Weiss; production designer, Luis Soler;
sound, Jose Marquez; sound designer, Bruno Canale; re-recording mixer, Robert Fernandez;
associate producers, Juan Garza, Mariano Ros, Mari Ichaso. Reviewed at New York Latino Film
Festival, July 29, 2009. Running time: 100 MIN.
Read the full article at:
El paraíso según León Ichaso
Por Zoé Valdés – Sept 1/2009: Seccion Cultural del Diario El
Nueva York, seis de la tarde, todavía ando con un amigo por el Village, dentro de media hora
tengo cita con el cineasta cubanoamericano León Ichaso, a quien conozco desde mis primeros
años de exilio, a mediados de los noventa, aunque ya yo había visto su primera película El Súper,
en Cuba, en una copia en cassette, en aquellos antiguos cassettes enormes cuya cinta se
trababa cuando hacía mucho calor.
Ver El Súper (primera película de éxito del exilio cubano en Estados Unidos, codirigida con
Orlando Jiménez Leal) en Cuba, de manera clandestina, en una de aquellas casas en las que
existió el lector de videos a cuenta y riesgo, otro aparato clandestino, era una proeza sumamente
contestataria; fíjense que les estoy hablando sólo de ver una película, prohibida por el régimen.
Desde El Súper me quedé enganchada con la obra de este cineasta, a quien conocí, repito, a
mediados de los noventa.
Después de aquel filme, León Ichaso trabajó en Hollywood y lo sigue haciendo. De hecho, vive en
Los Ángeles, "a unos cuantos millones" de la casa de Jennifer López, a quien dirigió junto a su
marido Marc Anthony, en El Cantante. Antes había realizado una biografía lírica en pantalla
acerca de un poeta nuyorican (Miguel Piñero, poeta de la contracultura, portorriqueño crecido en
Nueva York), titulada Piñero, precedida por filmes como Crossover Dreams, Bitter Sugar,
películas que le han valido reconocimiento mundial y de un público curioso que siempre lo sigue.
Llegada a casa de Mariano
Nos encontramos en casa de un amigo y, casi familiar: Mariano, quien también ha trabajado en
la producción de Paraíso. León me recibe con una sonrisa amplia, y empieza enseguida a
contarme los pormenores de la filmación, en la que tuve una pequeña participación cordial. En el
centro del salón donde conversamos amenamente reina una obra de Eugenio Kurakin Goizueta,
pintor franco-ruso-cubano, nacido en París (su madre era cubana de origen vasco). En lo que
esperamos a Mirta Ojito, escritora y periodista del New York Times, para ver la película, hablamos
de su padre, Justo Rodríguez Santos, de su madre Antonia, por y para la que hizo la película. Su
madre acababa de fallecer, y él necesitaba meterse en un proyecto, para de algún modo poder
soportar la ausencia de esa gran amiga que fue Antonia. Tenía reunido unos 30 mil dólares y
poco más, y un guión basado en un hecho real, aunque bastante reinventado, y re-trabajado,
como para parecerse a pie juntillas al acontecimiento que lo inspiró.
Argumento de la película
Mirta Ojito llegó también apurada como yo, de inmediato nos disponemos a ver la película.
Paraíso transcurre en Miami, la primera escena abre con ese gran actor que es Miguel Gutiérrez,
quien juega el papel de un viejo periodista de radio al que le cae de fly un hijo balsero,
interpretado por Adrián Más. Estamos ante el drama del exilio cubano en Miami, un drama con
tintes tragicómicos; un drama donde observaremos a varias generaciones con sus diferencias de
pensamiento y también con sus puntos de coincidencia. Así, Lili Rentería, la prestigiosa actriz
cubana, la más premiada en el teatro en los años 80 en Cuba y en México, interpreta a Alina, una
cubanoamericana en la cuarentena, también periodista y publicista, amiga de Remigio, el padre
de Iván, y ella es el puente entre todos los personajes.
Una relación de complicidad sexual se establece enseguida entre Alina y el joven balsero, a
escondidas de su supuesto padre. Sin embargo, desde el inicio adivinamos que Iván esconde
mucho más que su relación con Alina. Iván se muestra como un joven perturbado,
aprovechador, violento, acostumbrado a tomar las cosas sin pedirlas, prototipo del "hombre
nuevo" del que hablara el Ché, aunque a la inversa, producto típico de los totalitarismos, una
especie de "pícaro" del socialismo tropical. Iván miente, golpea, mata, jinetea incluso a su propio
padre. Pero, ¿es Remigio verdaderamente su padre? El final es un trastazo en el pecho, una
bofetada de las que sólo sabe dar como nadie, en el cine, León Ichaso. Si en Cuba las nuevas
generaciones no creen ni en su estampa, el exilio no conseguirá aliviarlas de ese padecimiento de
incredulidad y cinismo.
Nada se le escapa a este cineasta que entra y sale del cine independiente como quiere, con gran
entereza, con esfuerzo propio, y con el esfuerzo de los que lo acompañan cada vez. Todo está en
este filme: el encontronazo generacional, el drama de los balseros, el de los primeros exiliados, el
de los Peter Pan, el de los jóvenes perdidos pertenecientes a esa cosecha del ente
castrocomunista creado y criado sólo para hacerse daño y dañar a los demás. "En este país no
están preparados para gente como nosotros, porque nosotros no estamos preparados para
gente como ellos", confiesa sumamente acalorado El Flaco, magistralmente interpretado por Ariel
Texido a la persona que fue su amigo y que dentro de poco se convertirá en su asesino.
Además, veremos la ciudad de Miami filmada en todo su esplendor. Y también en todo su
esplendor está el protagonista: Adrián Más, a quien ya yo había visto en teatro en una pieza de
Lorca, todo un actorazo de los que aún se mantiene moldeable, como debe ser en un actor, y no
una figurita de chisme people.
Un gran trabajo de equipo
León Ichaso ha realizado un thriller dramático independiente de gran factura emocional y
artística, en todo el sentido de la denominación. La dirección de actores, la actuación de los
mismos, la escenografía, la fotografía elevan la historia a niveles muy superiores a otras películas
que sobre el tema del exilio o de la inmigración hacia Estados Unidos hemos visto y de las que se
ha hablado con mayor y mejor intención. El autor de varios capítulos de Miami Vice, de Médium
(lo más reciente), de Hendrix, de Sugar Hill, sin embargo, ha tenido que bregar en solitario,
siendo como es el cineasta cubanoamericano de mayor éxito y con una obra numerosa y
compleja en su haber – sobre todo en comparación con los nuevos latinoamericanos egresados
de Hollywood.
La carrera cinematográfica de León Ichaso surge y proviene de lejos, en el tiempo, y en su historia
personal. Se me antoja que el título de la película tendría que ver con la obra poética de su padre,
quien fue uno de los exponentes principales del Grupo Orígenes, cuyo líder y magister fue el
inmenso poeta José Lezama Lima, autor de una novela monumental con el título de Paradiso.
Este otro Paraíso participó ya de varios festivales de cine, el de Miami, el de Nueva York, y ahora
esperamos que muy pronto podamos apreciarla en Europa. Ante tanto bodrio con ojo extranjero
que se filma sobre Cuba, siempre es bueno poder apreciar una obra hecha a pulmón y con esos
golpes de vida de los que escribía César Vallejo, emergida de la inteligencia, con una factura
artística impecable, con actores por fin nuevos y buenos, bien dirigidos, bien actuados. León
Ichaso siempre consigue sorprendernos, con los temas que escoge, extremadamente
inesperados y variados, tan arriesgados, tan rigurosamente bien tratados.
The Scorsese of Salseros in New York
Published: The New York Times: July 29, 2007
THE year was 1956 and he was only 8, but for the Cuban-born film director Leon Ichaso the
memories are still fresh: a gaggle of men sweating under ruffled white shirts as they beat their
drums and danced in a conga line that snaked all the way to the Havana seawall.
That was the first time Mr. Ichaso’s parents — an eccentric and revered poet father and a
mother who wrote for radio and television — took him to the city’s annual carnival, a
bacchanalian event where good Catholic boys were not often found.
“I didn’t feel that sense of abandon and pure joy again until I came to New York and heard salsa
for the first time,” said Mr. Ichaso, now 58, who arrived in New York in 1968, just as Latin
musicians were finding their own voices. “Guys like Rubén Blades and Willie Colón reactivated
those memories, unleashed them and recharged me.”
It is that euphoric feeling of being liberated by art and raw talent while struggling to remain true
to one’s roots that Mr. Ichaso set out to capture in films like the highly acclaimed “Crossover
Dreams” and “Piñero,” and “El Cantante,” based on the life of Héctor Lavoe, a popular Puerto
Rican salsero who died of AIDS at 46 in 1993.
“El Cantante,” to be released Aug. 3 by Picturehouse, stars Marc Anthony, as Mr. Lavoe, and
Jennifer Lopez, as his wife, Puchi, also deceased. Mr. Anthony and Ms. Lopez, who is one of the
producers of the film, handpicked Mr. Ichaso to direct.
“In his movies you can almost smell the rooms the actors are in,” Mr. Anthony said. “He knows
how to create a period piece; he understands the streets, the humanity of it and the poetry of it
all. He captures the essence of our people, our neighborhoods.”
Some filmmakers and critics describe Mr. Ichaso as the poet of Latin New York, the selfappointed chronicler of the moment when Latinos were no longer confined to the kitchens of the
city’s best clubs but selling out concerts at Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall.
“Just as Scorsese and Sidney Lumet have given us a New York of corrupt cops and colorful
mafiosi, Leon has given us, with his stories of popular singers, a New York of heartbreaks and
shattered dreams,” said Jorge Ulla, a filmmaker.
Mr. Ichaso made his first film in 1967 and has worked in television — he directed several “Miami
Vice” episodes — as well as in movies regularly for almost three decades. The roster of actors
who have worked with him include Wesley Snipes (“Sugar Hill,” 1994) and Peter Coyote
(“Execution of Justice,” 1999). Yet he remains a virtual unknown outside his fan base, and some
people in the industry, who began to pay attention to his work with the release in 1979 of “El
Súper,” which explored the vicissitudes of an immigrant building superintendent in New York
and the elusive promise of the American dream.
“There are some directors who make a film, and they are set for life. That’s not my case,” Mr.
Ichaso said during a four-hour interview in which he alternated seamlessly between Spanish and
English in his Upper East Side apartment, a rent-controlled walk-up with high ceilings and a
courtyard view where he has lived for 33 years. “Every time I make a film, I think, ‘This is the
one,’ but then nothing happens.
“With ‘El Cantante,’ I’m getting ready for something big to happen, the big breakthrough, but
I’m also getting ready for a big disappointment. I don’t think that would be the case, but if it is,
I’m not going to start crying. I always have a parachute waiting.”
His parachute this time is a still-in-the-works — as in, he doesn’t have the money yet — film
called “Paraiso,” that will tell the story of a Cuban rafter who arrives in Miami in the summer of
1994 to search for his father.
Mr. Ichaso’s own father, Justo Rodríguez Santos, looms large in his life. A black-and-white
picture of him stares down from above the living-room fireplace, and a collection of his published
poems is prominently displayed on the bookshelves. Father and son shared a warm bond, one
that was almost severed by the Cuban revolution.
“My father fell in love with the Cuban revolution,” Mr. Ichaso said. “I fell in love with the ’60s.”
When Mr. Ichaso was 14, he left Cuba with his mother and sister. Before he left, he remembers,
his father sat him down and told him: “Look at me. Take a good look at me. This is the last time
you’ll see me.”
But it wasn’t. Disillusioned with the Cuban revolution, Mr. Rodríguez joined his family in Miami in
1968. By then Mr. Ichaso had dropped out of college after six months of driving to the campus
and staying in his car. In the spirit of the ’60s, he was using drugs and writing poetry, and had
already decided that he wanted to make films. The family moved to New York, where Mr. Ichaso
learned about filmmaking through his work, shooting commercials for Goya Foods and other
Then in 1972 Mr. Ichaso was fired from an advertising agency. In retaliation, he said, he went
back to his office one evening, opened the door with his own key and proceeded to vandalize the
agency. He dropped file cabinets out the windows, urinated on the vice president’s desk and
ripped the water cooler from the wall.
“I wanted to burn my bridges, to make sure no one would ever hire me again, so that I could
make movies, which is what I really wanted to do,” he said.
During the making of “El Súper,” he recalled, he had to light his apartment with matches
because he didn’t have money for electricity. In the evenings, after a meal of, mostly, beers, he
would pass out, fully clothed, on the sofa. He remembers how he used to run alongside the
buses rumbling up Madison Avenue to hide from the neighborhood butcher, who would come
after him in his bloody apron demanding payment for the occasional meat Mr. Ichaso bought on
credit, and yell, “I cannot pay for your movie!” Mr. Ichaso chortles now at the memory.
The success of “El Súper” allowed him to concentrate on filmmaking. Still, he leads an austere
life. His house in Los Angeles, where he spends about half his time, is rented.
“The only thing I have is exes,” said Mr. Ichaso, who has been married twice and has no
children. “The price of integrity is total poverty.”
Alejandro Ríos, a film critic, who organized a retrospective of Mr. Ichaso’s work at Miami Dade
College about two years ago, said that Mr. Ichaso’s intensity and unwillingness to compromise
his artistic vision seems to be almost a throwback to the times when important artists died
penniless and in obscurity.
“At a time when all a singer needs is a song to become a millionaire, Leon is a romantic figure,”
he said. “There is this great tension in his work, of themes he has not resolved in his own life. In
the end he’s always making his Cuban film, the one he hasn’t been able to make.”
Mr. Ichaso said that Cuba is a theme he is interested in, like many others. More broadly his work
is about loss, about exploring the space between cultures and between identities, in which an
immigrant, or an exile, can either thrive or succumb to nostalgia.
“It’s always about these people who have nowhere to return to, “ he said, “and about
documenting certain moments that otherwise, with time, would fade.”
And there is no moment he likes to document more than the Latin music boom in New York.
“Those men and women brought a piece of the tropics with them,” he said, speaking mostly of
Puerto Rican artists but also of the Cuban musicians who settled in New York in the 1960s. “And
they didn’t do it for money. They did it because they carried with them the pain of their
ambulant island.”
“El Cantante,” he said, is nothing but a tribute to those musicians and a way to connect with the
younger generations of Latinos.
“I feel I’m sharing a secret: ‘Here, take it. I’m going to pass this on to you,’ ” he said. “That is a
great joy, like taking someone to a favorite restaurant or letting them listen to your favorite song.
Most worlds I take people to, they haven’t been there. But once they discover them, they tend to
Paraiso por Alejandro Rios
Opinión El Nuevo Herald
Publicado el jueves 02 de octubre del 2008
El director de cine cubanoamericano León Ichaso convocó a un grupo de amigos para una
proyección de su filme todavía en proceso de terminación, pero prematuramente desbordante de
una fotogenia que sustrae el resuello desde el primer fotograma, Paraíso.
No quería un festival de patadas, dijo enfático al comienzo de la especial ocasión. Nos había
citado porque necesitaba opiniones constructivas, bien intencionadas, que contribuyeran, de
algún modo, a pulir las aristas o ajustar los cabos de su urticante película.
Dijo que Paraíso terminaba la trilogía que ha perpetrado sobre la circunstancia cubana, siendo El
Súper (1979) la primera y Azúcar amarga (1996) la segunda.
Cualquier otra, aseguró, será realizada en una Cuba libre por la cual siente una marcada ansiedad
de exploración. En el ínterin, su cinematografía, dedicada a la isla, realizada con magros recursos
pero ejemplar perseverancia, lo ha anclado a la nacionalidad aplazada de modo casi feroz.
Ichaso ostenta reconocidos créditos en la competitiva industria cinematográfica y televisiva de
Hollywood que le permitirían soslayar el quemante tema de su país de origen tan expuesto a la
incomprensión, la disyuntiva y hasta el rechazo en ese medio mercantil de glamour y frivolidad.
Ya se sabe lo que ha sido Cuba para el cine comercial norteamericano e incluso para unos pocos
intentos fuera del sistema: un manojo de filmes condescendientes, en los peores casos, de la
dictadura de los Castros y, en los mejores, caricaturas y estereotipos usurpando verdades y
sondeos algo más profundos.
Uno de los valores de Ichaso como artista cubano exiliado es el de no categorizar o excluir a sus
congéneres por orden de llegada o expediente político. En el reparto de su nuevo filme, por
momentos thriller o historia de horror, los protagónicos se distribuyen entre actores recién
llegados a estas costas, los cuales imprimen una autenticidad casi documental a la hora de decir
y gestualizar.
El grupo integrado, entre otros, por Adrián Más, Tamara Melián, Ariel Texido, Miguel Gutiérrez y
Lili Rentería dan cuenta de sus variados y complejos personajes cubano-miamenses con una
convicción deslumbrante. Todos cómplices de un director que los consulta a cualquier hora del
día y de la noche sobre el proceso creativo y los insta a improvisar y participar en una
experiencia conocida que les pertenece por derecho propio.
Del argumento sólo es dable apuntar que aborda la llegada de un balsero joven y apuesto, quien
viene en busca de su padre, una figura importante de la radio local. Ambos son dos lobos
solitarios que han debido sobrevivir, con máscaras y artimañas, los obstáculos de vidas
quebradas por represiones y desplazamientos involuntarios. Los dos medirán sus fuerzas y
terminarán devastados en el intento.
Ichaso logra bajarle el humo hedonista y arrogante a cierto estamento de la sociedad miamense y
por momentos nos devuelve una imagen, casi desconocida, que recuerda algunos sitios
apabullados de Nueva York donde recibió, de muy joven, su intensa educación sentimental.
La visualidad y composición enervantes del filme, sello que distingue el cine del director, se
refiere en blanco y negro y en colores, como retazos de pesadilla. Por momentos, es la visión de
un poeta maldito; en esencia, la crónica del llamado ''hombre nuevo'' cuando escapa del
''paraíso proletario'' en busca de otra tierra prometida, que apenas entiende, y trata de doblegar
con su formación marginal. Paraíso es un shock cultural en pantalla, pródigo en chispazos
reflexivos e hirientes, acápite de la tarea pendiente de un país que espera por la apremiante
reconstrucción material y espiritual.
Paraíso wraps up film trilogy on Cuban exiles:
The director of Paraíso, which premieres Wednesday in Miami, expects his third film on
Cubans to rankle some in the South Florida exile community.
In his now-classic directorial debut, 1979’s El Super, Havana-born filmmaker Leon Ichaso
documented the travails of a homesick, blue-collar Cuban exile struggling to raise his family in an
unforgiving New York.
In 1996's Azúcar amarga (Bitter Sugar), Ichaso revisited the Cuban-exile theme from the insideout, exploring contemporary life on the island and the growing disillusionment of people who had
bought into the ideals of Castro’s revolution.
With Paraíso (Paradise), which makes its world premiere Wednesday at the Miami International
Film Festival, Ichaso brings his unofficial trilogy to a strikingly unsentimental and haunting close –
a finale the director believes will inevitably rankle at least some members of Miami’s Cuban exile
“It is important to remember this is one man’s tale and is not meant to be a generalization of all
the Cubans who are coming here today,” said Ichaso, 60. “I do think of the three films as a
trilogy, and this one is the end, exploring the new arrivals, these new little Cuban Frankensteins
that Castro makes and sets loose on the world.
“When I made El Super, some people asked me, ‘Why, of all the successful Cubans who have
emigrated to this country, did you have to pick a loser who used to be a guaguero [bus driver]?’
But that's what felt interesting to me. I’m ready for a similar reaction to Paraíso from some
people, but I think there is something visceral about the film that will connect with people. It
might stun or bruise them for a second, but they will sense there is no lie here.”
Shot entirely in South Florida last year, Paraíso centers on Remigio (veteran Cuban actor Miguel
Gutierrez), a successful radio talk-show host surprised to discover that a son he never knew he
had, the handsome Ivan (Adrian Mas), has fled Cuba on a raft and arrived in Miami.
Struggling with the awkwardness and strangeness of the revelation, Remigio welcomes Ivan into
his posh Key Biscayne condo, doing his best to make the wide-eyed young man feel at home.
Ivan regales Remigio and his friends with harrowing stories about his voyage and his memories
of listening to his dad’s show on the island via a beat-up radio with a wire hanger for an
antenna. Remigio takes his son to eat at Versailles, where he marvels at the size of the portions,
and hooks him up with a job as a pool attendant at a South Beach hotel.
But Paraíso also hints at a darkness lurking within Ivan – a casual incident of shoplifting, a chance
encounter on a Little Havana street with a drug addict who claims to have been his inseparable pal
back on the island – that grows more pervasive after his assimilation hits a rocky patch.
“Paraíso measures the damage that 50 years of dictatorship has wreaked on a broken country,”
said Alejandro Rios, director of the Cuban Cinema Series at Miami Dade College.
“Ivan is the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution’s Hombre Nuevo [New Man], and when he
ends up here, he doesn’t know how to deal with the codes and norms of another society. He
didn’t fit in over there, and he doesn’t fit in here. He’s in a very dark limbo, but that’s not
because he’s wrong or evil. It’s what he was taught. In Cuba, you have to be constantly fighting
against the state to survive. You have to ignore the rules and steal. And when someone like Ivan
comes here, he thinks the streets are made of cheese, and money grows on trees.”
LEON ICHASO (Director)
Cuban-American director Leon Ichaso was born in Havana, Cuba, into a family of well-known
writers, journalists and artists.
His father, Justo Rodríguez Santos, was one of Cuba’s most respected poets and a pioneer in
broadcast TV and radio – and his mother, Antonia Ichaso, had a radio magazine show in the ’40s.
Ichaso left the island for exile in the United States with his mother and sister at age 14. His father
stayed behind to continue his unwavering support for the Cuban Revolution. Five years later he
joined his family in New York.
Leon Ichaso is known as “an actor's director” for the stellar performances of the actors who
work under his direction; as a writer and director who does not compromise as he tells his tales;
and as a filmmaker who specializes in gritty urban realism.
“Ichaso es una especie de Werner Herzog cubano en cuanto a visión maldita, actitud enloquecida
en la creación y conocimiento del alma humana...”
–Rosie Iguanzo
“He's the lone wolf of filmmakers, the one who has given up everything else for the sake of his
art – and he's made it in Hollywood.”
–Alejandro Ríos, coordinator of Miami Dade College's Cuban Cinema Series
Paraíso (2009)
El Cantante (2006)
Piñero (2001)
Bitter Sugar (Azúcar amarga) (1996)
Sugar Hill (1993)
Crossover Dreams (1985)
El Súper (1979)
The Cleaner (2008–09)
Medium (2007–08)
Hendrix (TV movie) (2000)
Ali: An American Hero (TV movie) (2000)
Execution of Justice (TV movie) (1999)
Free of Eden (TV movie) (1998)
Miami Vice (1986–88)
Crime Story (1986)