“This is a new Miami!” a partygoer tells Ivan (Adrian Mas), a recently arrived Cuban balsero. “You can do whatever you want!”
These are words Ivan takes to heart – and then some. The third and bleakest installment in writer-director Leon Ichaso’s unofficial trilogy of films about the Cuban exile experience in the United States, Paraiso (Paradise) sends Fidel Castro’s “New Man” on a quest for the American dream. Born and raised under the revolution, Ivan arrives in Miami by raft, penniless but eager, and moves in with his father, radio talk-show host Remigio (Miguel Gutierrez), whom he had never met.
Father and son begin an awkward relationship, gradually getting to know each other as Ivan begins his assimilation. But old habits die hard, and a chance encounter on the street with an old acquaintance (Ariel Texido)from Cuba (“You’re the same hustler you always were!”) sends Ivan into a downward spiral of deceit, manipulation and, eventually, murder.
Shot entirely in Miami for $30,000 and with a local cast and crew, Paraiso belies its tiny budget with a splashy, colorful look that captures the region’s feel with an insider’s savvy. It also presents an uncommon, for movies, perspective on Cuban exiles, using the damaged psyche and corrupt morality of Ivan, who never fails to take advantage of offers of kindness, as a scathing critique of Castro’s Cuba. Ivan’s actions may be monstrous,û but the film reserves its truest wrath for the mad scientist who spawned him.
Cast: Miguel Gutierrez, Adrian Mas, Tamara Melian, Lili Renteria, Ariel Texido.
Writer-director: Leon Ichaso.
Producer: Lisa Rhoden.
Running time: 100 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Vulgar language, sexual situations, brief violence, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: Tower Cinema.