Here is a revolutionary film: dialectical in form and content, humble in the face of real human experience, proposing no final answers except the unending struggle of a people to make something out of what history has made of them. De cierta manera is that powerful hybrid—the fictional documentary set to a tropical beat—for which the cinema of revolutionary Cuba is justifiably famous. In this instance, the documentary deals with the destruction of slum housing and the struggle against the culture of marginality generated in such slums through the creation of a new housing project (Miraflores) and an accompanying educational program. The fictional embodiment of this historical process is seen in the clash of attitudes between Mario (a product of the slums), his lover Yolanda (a teacher who has come to Miraflores to help integrate such marginal elements into the revolution), and his friend Humberto (a fun-loving slacker). In the course of telling these stories, and others, De cierta manera demolishes the categories of fiction and documentary, insisting that both forms are equally mediated by the intention of the filmmaker, and that both thus require a critical stance.
This insistence on a critical attitude is conveyed, first of all, in the dialectical resonance of the film, a structure characteristic of the best of the Cuban cinema. Visually this resonance is achieved through a rich blending of fictional present and historical recreation with documentary and semi-documentary. In fact, it becomes impossible to distinguish the different forms; fictional characters are set in documentary sequences where they interact with real people and real people re-enact historical re-constructions which are not visually in accordance with their own telling of the stories. Further, the film repeats various sequences several times, twisting the film back on itself and requiring the audience to participate actively in analyzing the different perspectives offered on the problems posed by the film.
The sound track is as creatively textured as are the images, and is every bit as demanding of the audience. The film sets up a tension between the classical documentary and its omniscient narrator, cinema-verité interviews, and fictional cinema. The omniscient documentary provides sociological data on different facets of marginality. Although this data establishes one framework for the “fictional” core of the film, its deliberately pompous tone warns us that we must critically question even such “official” pronouncements.
This omniscient narrator is juxtaposed to the conversations which take place around different aspects of marginalism. The manifes ations of the culture of marginality are seen to he manifold—work absenteeism, machismo, delinquency—and the problem is hotly debated by everyone. Humberto is criticized for taking off from work on an unauthorized four-day jaunt with a girl friend. while lying about his “sick mother.” Mario is criticized for denouncing Humberto, not because his attitude was counter-productive. but because Humberto accused him of being an informer—a violation of male-bonding rules. Yolanda criticizes the mothers of children who misbehave in school, and is in turn criticized by her coworkers for her inability to empathize with women whose background is so different from hers. Although trenchant and acute. these critiques are also loving and constructive. Just as individuals in the film leave these confrontations with a clearer understanding of the revolutionary process to which they are committed. so too does the audience leave the film with a more precise notion of dialectical film.
At the end of the film, the workers in the factory meeting where the fictional confrontation of Mario and I Humberto took place enter into a discussion of the ease. They seem to rise up and incorporate themselves into the actual production of the film itself. This is as it should be, for this film demands the participation of all: real people and actors, workers and marginal elements, teachers and housewives, audience and filmmaker. The wrecking ball (in a sequence repeated several times during the film) is not only destroying the slums and (metaphorically) the slum mentality, it may also be demolishing some of the more cherished assumptions of moviegoers in bourgeois cultures.
–John Mraz (International Dictionary Of Films and Filmmakers:Films)