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Posted January 08, 2005 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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EFE News Services

Filmmaker Barbara Alvarez says she never imagined that the story of her octogenarian aunt and uncle in Cuba would turn into a documentary that would usher her into the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

Festival organizers say they picked 82 shorts out of the 3,887 that were submitted for the jury’s consideration at the event taking place Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah. Of the selected entries, five were made by U.S. Hispanics.

Foreign entries include three from Spain, one from Peru and one from Mexico.

Among the U.S. Hispanic entries is Alvarez’s, titled “Love and Laundry,” a love story about Cariche and Olvido, a couple that have shared joys and sorrows and life itself for more than 60 years.

“It’s every filmmaker’s dream, to get something into Sundance. It’s like making it to the top to get accepted there, an acknowledgement that artistically, you’ve got something going for you,” said Alvarez, who was brought to the United States by her Cuban parents when she was one year old.

Alvarez first visited Cuba in 1998, when she was 24, and there met her octogenarian aunt and uncle.

“Love and Laundry,” written and directed by Alvarez, relates in the space of a few minutes the love story of a couple that shares everything, even doing the laundry in a Russian-made washing machine from the 1970s.

“I went to Cuba with a camera to capture images of my people and the place where I was born. I taped everything, including the two of them, who are very funny and give off good energy,” said Alvarez, who grew up in Miami and lives with her husband and daughter in New York, where she moved in 1993.

“My uncle spends his time talking about the day he met his wife, of how he loves her, that she’s his girl, and I found it very funny and filmed it. He took me to the place where he met her, when she was 14, and her remembers the time and the clothes she was wearing,” he said.

The filmmaker also filmed his aunt and uncle doing the laundry in their back yard, in the neighborhood of El Cotorro, outside Havana.

“The laundry takes them all day because they don’t have the facilities we do. First, the wash it by hand, then they make a bonfire and boil it, then they put in the washing machine, rinse it, wring it by hand and lay it out to dry in the sun. He says he helps her because she is frail, when it’s just the opposite, but that’s his girl,” she said.

Alvarez returned from Cuba with two hours of videotape of her whole family, and did not look it again for a long time, until her husband was attracted to the material and asked her to consider doing something with it.

“Later, I saw in the laundry a metaphor for their love, so sweet and long-lasting,” Alvarez commented.

“I had no intention of doing anything with all this material. I had just taped it for myself,” said Alvarez, who had previously made the shorts “5 Minutes” (1994), on a Lower Manhattan neighborhood with a large Hispanic population, and “Canal Street” (1997).

“Love and Laundry” was already screened at the New York International Latino Film Festival.

Alvarez plans to travel to the Sundance Film Festival to see if she can get financial support to make two hour-long films she has in mind.

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