ZAPPING: A New Soap Opera Horizons?

ZAPPING: A New Soap Opera Horizons?
Fecha de publicación: 
12 June 2023
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Some viewers who are already with gray hair may associate the Cuban soap opera Asuntos pendientes (Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Cubavisión) with the soap operas that were thought decades ago for the popular Cuban Television program Horizontes.

Meeting points: the plots have a workplace as their main setting —in this case, a construction company— and the conflicts associated with production and labor relations have an unquestionable impact on the story; in fact, sometimes they are the main motives of the dramatic build.

For some, the ghost of a socialist realism accommodated to new contexts looms. But a clear distinction must be done in the tone of the narrative and in the very nature of the staging. It’s not a matter of exalting the unblemished heroism of the workers here —ignoring that workers are, first of all, human beings—, nor of imposing the idea that a certain class consciousness minimizes or even voids other challenges, aspirations, achievements, problems of a sentimental and more or less intimate nature.

The company is here the microuniverse where several cores evolve with their respective stories. And the approach, still being realistic —rather, credible— does not betray the essence of a genre that is based, largely, on the ups and downs of love and other feelings and attitudes associated with human relationships.

A construction company can be a perfectly legitimate setting for a soap opera. Same as (and sometimes, in a much more interesting way) the lush mansions of the rich and the humble dwellings of the poor in which hundreds of soap operas unfold.

The thematic universe of this one, as has almost always been a characteristic of national productions, transcends the mere ups and downs of love and passion.

There’s much more than the usual "soap opera traits" (that is: suspense, traps, slander, whims, turning points... - would not hurt anyone).

Violence between couples, female empowerment, abuse of power, daily difficulties, challenges in the education of children, reintegration of ex-inmates... Pressing issues, with an undeniable social impact, are approached without didacticism, assuming clear, purposeful dramatic lines.

We have witnessed, yes, some gloating in the approach, which has torpedoed the pace to some degree... and not all actors are up to their characters (this is not the case, fortunately, of the stars), but the system that a soap opera is supposed to articulate works well here. There’s element, raw material.

Once again there are a few loose ends pending on the production, which here are barely functional... and are still the weak point of soap operas in Cuba.

Only a few times can the final products live up to the quality standards imposed by productions from other sources. And obviously, the availability of resources —or rather, the lack— sets limits... but clearly, there’s also a lack of creativity, the will to step outside the comfort zone.

The potentials of construction of a scene, photographically and choreographically speaking are not taken seized here. It’s usually the same succession of traditional shots with very little wish for improvement. And the same happens with most of the stories: setting, spatial design, background sounds... the setting adds very little to the story.

Asuntos Pendientes still has a few more issues to deal with. There are important plots that are still open. We are expecting eagerly...

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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