“Strawberry and Chocolate”
From Cuba with Love
“Strawberry and Chocolate” is a celebration of life and non-conformity. It is about two men, one gay and one straight and how two very different people are really very much alike. They both love their homeland, Cuba and they learn what it is to love a human. Realism is the key to the movie and we also get a look at Cuba in ways we have not been privy to.
Diego is a cultivated but skeptical gay man who falls in love with a heterosexual Communist who is filled with prejudices and revolutionary ideas. The two men learn to love each other and overcome intolerance.
Set in contemporary Havana, the city seems to have lost some of its sheen and luster since Castro came to power. David (Vladimir Cruz) is a student and a strong Castro supporter. He is rebounding from the loss of his girlfriend. When his girlfriend decides to marry someone else, David goes to the wedding and there he meets Diego (Jorge Perugorria).
Diego is a flamboyant gay male and cannot disguise the sexual interest he has for David. When he sits himself down at a table in a sidewalk café and orders chocolate ice cream, he explains that some people like chocolate and some like strawberry. Thusly the film receives its name and hints at the relationship between the two men.
Diego wants to give David the education that he never received and he lures David to his apartment. David informs the government that Diego wants to see a forbidden art exhibit and is directed to become his friend in order to obtain more information about him. The two themes of the film are anti-gay resistance in Castro’s Cuba and the betray-your-neighbor theme imposed by the police state.
Things go awry because no one conforms to what is expected of them. Everyone plays the government’s game in public but they do exactly what they want in private.
Jorge Perugorria as Diego gives an amazing performance. His character develops from a limp-wristed clichéd gay man at the beginning and he later becomes a fascinating study of a man in conflict with the government because he is different on every level from what the system wants. He is a man with an independent spirit, a man who genuinely loves the arts and he is disappointed by the ideals f communism.
Vladimir Cruz as David also turns in a fine performance as a naïve young man who discovers beauty through his friendship with Diego. He also finds himself seriously committed to a person for he first time.
The way the two men develop a friendship is amazing. The story is somewhat of a coming-of-age story because David learns how to think, gains a new maturity of sprit and can now develop a loving and mature relationship with a woman as a result his friendship with Diego.
It is good to have a “sweet” film about accepting difference and learning to accepting other points of view. It’s not a gay movie—it is a movie about friendship and about the love that Cubans hove for their country. Havana is photographed beautifully but we see the heartbreak of the city. Showing how Cubans must feel when they have to leave their country and the difficulty with that is also an emphasis of the film.
Nominated for the Oscar as the best foreign film in 1995, it is hard to see how this movie did not take home the prize.