Submitted by Julio M
Oscar Nominee – Best Actor
In 1980, after many failed attempts to leave Cuba -due to being gay and a dissident of the Revolutionary Government of Fidel Castro- and suffering jail and torture for it, Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem) sees an opportunity when, following a local political crisis, the Cuban and American Governments reach an agreement by which any Cuban who so wishes may leave the island via one of the many boats set in place at the Mariel Bay -in what came to be known historically as the Mariel Boatlift, by virtue of which over 100,000 Cubans emigrated to the United States-. Moreover, in retaliation, because “the Americans are embracing any Cuban who wishes to move there”, Castro’s government also decides to open the jails and asylums, so that convicted criminals, legally insane people and homosexuals join the departing convoys. Reinaldo is seen being put through the humiliation of “walking around to prove he is gay and worthy of leaving in the boatlift”.
When he reaches the embarking port, due to the fact that he was specifically targeted by the regime because of the prohibition on his work, he grabs his Cuban passport and adds and extra dot above the E of his name, to make it look like an I -as in “ARINAS”-, to avoid being prevented from leaving. It works.
Later, partly in documentary style, Reinaldo is seen explaining his dire situation of being a gay, anti-Castrist and HIV-positive refugee; he openly laments his country-less status, how he longs for being back in his beloved homeland and, progressively, we witness how AIDS takes a toll on his life and health. His only help and companion is his fellow Cuban friend and one-time lover, Lazaro Gomez Carriles (Olivier Martinez). Eventually, tired and embittered, he commits suicide by overdosing on medicine and Lazaro suffocating him with a plastic bag.
The final images of the film intertwine brief voiceovers of his poetry with images back in Cuba, including one of a raging, naked little boy; and title cards inform that Reinaldo’s death happened in 1990 at the age of 47, and his best-known work, his autobiography “Before Night Falls”, was published posthumously in 1993.