Many Cuban portraits by Mario Balmaceda – Juventud Belde

Recalling the best film characters of Mario Balmaceda, one of the great Cuban actors of all time, means confirming that he took care to represent the expressiveness and spontaneity of Cubans, although he also demonstrated his ability in more epic roles, as and courage and solemnity. In this way, the actor and drama teacher can guarantee the directors a flexibility quite rare in the Cuban sphere.

Mario Balmaceda’s first leading role in the cinema, as he also set standards in theater and television, appeared in a film by Manuel Octavio Gómez, just in the water days (1971), which presents a full gallery of characters around the famous Viñales healer. They remember, among others, the journalist on the hunt for sensational news, the priest, the mayor, the ignorant peasant and the miserly apothecary and, of course, the opportunist-manipulator and mythomaniac whom everyone calls Tony Guaracha, whom Balmaceda knew how to interpret perfectly, despite the fact that his personality was light years away from the jacarandoso mullah.

Balmaceda and Yolanda Cuellar in the movie In a Certain Way.

After a handful of films, the consecration in the in a certain wayblack (1974), the only feature film directed by Sara Gómez, and one of the few contemporary Cuban films of 1970. Its character is also called Mario because the director puts the actors in a unique real-life experiment within the framework of fiction. The Mario of the film became mythical because he symbolized an entire country in that decade: he was a worker, a victim of macho backwardness and marginal habits, a generous and noble man who stubbornly faced the imperative to accept the progression of social change.

He later plays a supporting role, an evil demi-psycho who threatens to steal the film in the brigade (1978); plays an old mayor, representative of the ancien régime, and although not seen in the film, the leader is supposed to rally a group of resentful peasants and exiles who rise up against the revolution during the Literacy Campaign and the Bay of Pigs invasion to try to undermine achievements such as the agrarian reform.

He has already become one of the most popular actors in Cuba, thanks above all to the television series In silence it had to beBalmaceda continued his triumphant film career with has been exchanged (1983, Juan Carlos Tabio), in which he symbolically gives life to the most hard-working and positive characters of a society whose petty-bourgeois and racist prejudices are represented in the film by Rosa Fornes. He is an architect who lives in a
solar, he meets the young woman played by Isabel Santos, they fall in love and he manages to break her out of a marriage of convenience with the wealthy bureaucrat played by Ramoncito Veloz.

In silence, it was to be the popular TV series in which he shared a cast with Sergio Corrieri.

He also won the 1985 Caracol Award for Best Male Film Performance for The second hour of Esteban Zayas (1984, Manuel Pérez), one of his most notable tragic roles, as he plays a man who decides to live on the fringes of politics after the failure of the 1933 revolution and after the libertarian rebellion of 1959 he is once again subjected to under great moral pressure.

Next to famous baseball players, Mario Balmaceda appears as the manager of the Industriales team in the film at three past two (1985) by Rolando Diaz. His character was secondary, but like the main character played by Samuel Claxton, he must face the challenges arising from the inevitable physical decline and the imperative to give a space that corresponds to the young.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of his professional career came when he had to play Antonio Maceo and won the praise of many professionals and much of the public with Baragua (1986, Jose Masip). In collaboration with the director, Balmaceda brings life and physical presence to the iconic Maceo, the champion of the historic event known as La Protesta de Baraguá, in a film
the one that recreates above all the interview with the Spanish general Martínez Campos.

Few Cuban actors have had a feature film at their disposal, conceived primarily as a vehicle for displaying their talent and the theatrical recital that implies The useless death of my partner Manolo (1990, Julio García Espinosa), with a character that won him acting awards in Cuba and Colombia. The meeting between two friends (the other character is played by Pedro Renteria) highlights the prejudices, marginalities and inconveniences that lead to disintegrating violence, because the film, instead of recreating macho folklore, criticizes them devastatingly.

Already boasting an impressive body of work and resume, the actor was tapped by Enrique Collina to play the lead role in the raunchy comedy between cyclones (2003). It’s about an elderly man, the father figure of a dysfunctional family, and his many prejudices against youth, prejudices that show up both in his relationship with his rocker daughter and in the open hostility in his relationship with the young assistant he’s been assigned in their line clerk job.

Without a doubt, one of the strongest interpretations of his career is that of a macho, despotic and conservative old man in the case of the century (2015) by Carlos M. Quintella. In a multi-building apartment, in the abandoned community of Huragua, three generations live together (grandfather, father and son) in a family marked by disappointment and disillusionment. His character thus becomes an allegory of a generation from which, the film acknowledges, disillusionment and hypercriticism originate.

Among the many awards in his prolific career are the Distinction for National Culture, the Juan Marinello and Alejo Carpentier orders, the National Theater Award in 2006, the National Television Award in 2019, and also in March 2021, he received The National Film Award was awarded thanks to some of the films we mentioned before.

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