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Posted December 20, 2003 by publisher in Cuban Sports

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By Harlan Jacobson | USA TODAY

HAVANA — Suite Havana, an essentially silent cascade of images about the hopes and dreams of ordinary Cubans, won five awards at the 25th Havana International Film Festival last weekend.

By acclaimed 55-year-old Cuban director Fernando Perez (Life Is to Whistle), Suite Havana is the official Cuban nomination to the Oscars and will be shown in the Palm Springs Film Festival’s foreign Oscar nominees section in January. A screening at the Miami Film Festival in February is pending.

Despite a warm reception for the film, the return chill in U.S.-Cuban relations was felt throughout the festival. On Dec. 31, all cultural exchange and other interest-group travel to Cuba will be prohibited, except by immediate family members of Cuban citizens and humanitarian missions. It’s part of the Bush administration’s plan to reduce the flow of dollars to Cuba.

Cuba fell out of fashion in Hollywood this year, as prominent U.S. filmmakers and critics imposed a de facto embargo by staying away.

Angered by the regime’s imprisonment of Cuban journalists and the execution of boat hijackers last spring, major European and American film names were noticeable by their absence including Oliver Stone, whose Comandante, a 90-minute celebrity-style interview with Fidel Castro, played to two packed screenings at the festival.

That Cuba has a nominee to the Academy Awards at all is due to the late Gregory Peck, a former president of the academy, who persuaded the Oscar’s board to end the ban on Cuban submissions.

Benicio del Toro and director Terence Malick were in Havana but unaccompanied by any films, and Constantin Costa-Gavras (Z, Stateof Siege) came for a retrospective of his work.

“Many Americans are scared to come here this year,” acknowledged Ivan Giroud, who is in his 10th year as head of the festival. “All the legal ways for cultural travel to come to Cuba have been made more complicated.”

But perhaps the film speaks to Cuba’s political struggles as well.

“Suite Havana speaks about the human capacity to survive, to struggle for a better life, and do it in an honest and clean way,” Giroud reflected. “It says that we Cubans can live in the most difficult conditions but have such a strong spirit we still have a purpose for life.”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on February 17, 2005 by Margaret Alfonso with 2 total posts

    I am trying to locate good cuban film that is subtitled in Eng.  Can you help?

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