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Backstage pass to the city: The soundscape of Suite Habana

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The objective of this article is to underscore the significance of sound for the full appreciation of film through an analysis of the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds and music of Suite Habana/Havana Suite (2003), by Fernando Pérez, a film that has not yet been interpreted from this perspective. The soundscape of Suite Habana offers a compelling understanding of contemporary urban life and the political and cultural transformations that have occurred in Cuban society. From everyday sounds of cooking, cleaning and daily circulation through the city, to songs and compositions by well-known composers and performers, urban sounds in the film present a profound interpretation of the Cuban capital. Despite its similarities with the city symphony film genre of the 1920s, Suite Habana’s focus on the human side of the urban experience sets this film apart from these earlier examples. Drawing also from experimentation in documentary film in early Revolutionary Cuba, Pérez’s film carefully interweaves everyday sounds to highlight the materiality of urban life, while the incorporation of specific musical pieces and performers underscores the impact of historical changes for the island.
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Keywords: Cuban film; Latin American film; documentary; sound design; sound studies; urban studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McGill University

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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