An unconditional lover of cinema who was able to watch 400 Blows four hundred times, Juan Carlos Tabío launched his cinematic career at ICAIC in 1961. Following his accomplishments in the short fiction genre, Tabío, who belonged to a new generation of filmmakers trained in the documentary genre (he himself had produced over 30 documentaries from 1961-1980), went on to direct his first feature-length comedy: Se Permuta (House for Swap) (1983). The film was based on a play Tabío himself staged with the encouragement of fellow filmmaker Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, a solid friend who shared his comedic sensibility. The two co-directed the Oscar-nominated film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) in 1994.
When asked by a journalist to speak on the origin of comedy in his films, Tabío answered:
“It’s been my way of cinematically saying that when comedy is the end goal, the seams are revealed. For me, it’s not something you go looking for, but rather something that just happens. Comedy is an extremely valid form of communication, of getting serious messages through to people while entertaining them. The important thing is not to tell a story just to tell a story; a story should reveal a reality so that it keeps the spectator’s interest while moving them to a place of reflection and criticism.”
Tabío had, on other occasions, spoken explicitly about his use of comedy as a force to raise consciousness, describing it as “a mechanism used to unravel codes, to penetrate reality with real-world situations that would otherwise need to be explained with a more complex language.”
Dedicated to the conviction that comedy is not a secondary genre, and that humor can be implemented to take on serious, risky, and complex subject matter, Juan Carlos Tabío pursued this path in his later work—Lista de espera (The Waiting List) (2000), Aunque estés lejos (So Far Away) (2003), and El Cuerno de la abundancia (The Horn of Plenty) (2008)—with an unrelenting desire to make his audience laugh while simultaneously laughing at themselves.
– Luciano Castillo