by Antonio Mazón Robau - Translated by SRM.

On December 3, 1979 the Chaplin movie theater opened in Havana Cuba with a grand celebration of the cinematic arts.

This event brought the most significant gathering of film-makers from Latin America and the International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema was born. Today the festival is the premier showcase for the best Latin American films.

More than three decades later the Havana Film Festival will take place from the 2nd to 12th December now in its 23rd season. Films will compete in such categories as fiction, documentary, unpublished script, cinema poster and Operas Prima.

The most famous Cuban film-maker still alive, Fernando Pérez, debuted in the fiction cinema with “Secret” (1987), a film inspired by real facts that narrated the avatars of a group of young people fighting against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, in the decade of the 50s of last century. Then would come “Hello Hemingway” (1990) and the controversial “Madagascar” (1994), but it would be “Life is to whistle” (1998) when he would win the first Coral Award in the Havana New Latino American Film Festival.

In the new issue of the Festival beginning on December 2, 2010 this awarded director competes with a movie that has received excellent national reviews, “José Martí, the eye of the Canary” (2010), a Cuban-Spanish c-oproduction on the childhood and adolescence of the apostle of Cuba Independence and national poet, José Martí; this film has already obtained two awards at the Ibero-American Festival of Huelva, Spain.

Other veteran Cuban director entering in competition this year is Gerardo Chijona, who debuted in the field in 1991 with the excellent social comedy “Adorable Lies” and from then on it has made repeated incursions into this genre. But in his new movie, “Ticket to the Paradise”, this realisateur has reinvented himself and makes a radical turn in his filmography when counting a factual and extremely dramatic history that links two youths, an adolescent that escapes from her father’s sexual harassment and a young rocker that steals money from a pharmacy.

In the genre of fiction of the Festival of Havana of this year there will be two other Cuban productions, “The Old House” by Léster Hamlet and “Long Distance” by Esteban Insausti. These films directors debuted together in a film made up of several short fiction stories, “Three Times Two” (2003), in which they shared space with another young filmmaker, Pavel Giroud.

“The Old House” is the adaptation for the screen of the play by Abelardo Estorino, a classic piece of the Cuban theatrical repertoire that begins with the return home of Esteban, the main character, who, when finding about his father’s imminent death, after 14 years of absence, return to his maternal home. On the other hand “Long Distance” has as a central character Ana, who will turn 35 years old and discovers that she has no any friends left to celebrate with.

Other two titles representing the island in the Festival of Havana 2010 competing in the dedicated section to Opera Prima, are “Afinities”, directed by the actors of acclaimed “Strawberry and Chocolate”, Jorge Perugorría and Vladimir Cruz, and “Ferocious Molina’s”, by Jorge Molina, the first long feature of this experienced actor, professor and director of fiction short films.

The film festival also offers a wide view into the film production through the sections Latin American Panorama, The Hour of the Shorts, and Informative Documentary Section, as well as those of the feature length movies, short features and documentaries that serve as a complement to the main competition.

Made in Cuba, a program of the latest shorts movies made on the island; International Contemporary Panorama, where are shown a sample of the most recent films of the world, and Documental Panorama, in which are projected the recent works on this genre, as well other offers inside the event as International Cinema samples, retrospectives, homages and Special Features presentations.

And lastly, it is necessary to point out that besides the official prizes of the festival, several Cuban and foreign institutions award collateral prizes, as well as other several international prizes that are granted by institutions like the International Federation of the Film Press (FIPRESCI), the World Catholic Association for the Communication (SIGNIS) and the UNICEF.

Film directors from United States have marked their high profile presence in the festival on numerous occasions, and on the Festival days it has been a frequent visitor the acclaimed Afro-American actor Harry Belafonte. Among other many personalities that have honored the festival are Gregory Peck, Danny Glover, Francis Ford Coppola and in this latest edition the visit of Newsweek Cinema critic David Jansen is expected. Also a high profile presence will be that of the Oscar’s winning directress, Kathryn Bigelow who will present in Havana its acclaimed film “The Hurt Locker”.

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