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Cuban film festival update

Posted February 26, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO | Miami Herald

Although it may be the most controversial, Viva Cuba is not the only film in the festival that deals with hot Cuban topics.

Filmmakers from Spain, The Netherlands and the United States also are bringing movies and documentaries with historical and contemporary storylines dealing with Cuban issues.

There’s the premiere of Lost City, a production with a 1950s Havana setting based on a script by the late novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante and championed by Cuban-American Andy Garcia, who directed and starred.

There’s also a re-issue of the 1999 Buena Vista Social Club documentary, part of a tribute to its German director, Wim Wenders.

Other highlights include:

• Una rosa de Francia (A Rose From France), perhaps the most anticipated film from inside the island because it features two leading figures in Cuban film, both of Oscar-nominated Strawberry and Chocolate fame—screenwriter Senel Paz and actor Jorge Perugorr�a.

Filmed in Cuba by Spanish director Manuel Guti�rrez Arag�n in collaboration with the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), Una rosa de Francia recreates 1930s Havana and a rum-smuggling operation to the United States at the height of Prohibition.

• Benigno, Farewell to a Revolution is a documentary made by Marlou van den Berge of The Netherlands about the life of Benigno, a former Cuban guerrilla who fought alongside Ernesto ‘‘Che’’ Guevara and survived the ambush in Bolivia that killed Guevara.

Now a refugee in Paris, he struggles with the language to get enough work as a plasterer. Benigno’s testimony of how ‘‘Fidel fooled us, betrayed us,’’ is powerful and moving, given the simplicity and deep sorrow with which he tells his story of going from idealist to exile.

He met Guevara and Fidel Castro when he was just 17 and they showed up at his mountain cabin asking to buy his pig. Benigno and his young wife roasted the pig and fed the rebels. Days later, Batista’s army showed up when Benigno was out, and no questions asked, shot up the cabin with his wife inside.

Benigno joined the rebels, trained and fought with them, then rode triumphantly into Havana in 1959.

His story was turned into a telenovela, which aired on Cuban state television, and on the surface it seemed Benigno was part of the regime. But, he says, he had become disenchanted with Castro, who ``betrayed all the principles of justice we fought for.’‘

Benigno spent decades afraid of the tactics with which Castro ‘‘got rid’’ of opponents and people ‘‘who were shining more than he,’’ like Camilo Cienfuegos and Guevara.Benigno is no stranger to Miami. After he was exiled in 1995, he stopped here and appeared several times on Cuban talk shows.

Benigno is the Amsterdam-based filmmaker’s first full-length documentary, but she made two other documentaries on Cuba—La vida es as� (Life is That Way) about musicians of La Vieja Trova and pianist Ram�n Valle, and also Surviving Cuba.

• Malas temporadas (Hard Times) is a Spanish film by renowned director Manuel Mart�n Cuenca. It features a Cuban exile dreaming of Miami, unable to accept his life in Madrid.

Carlos (played by Eman Xor O�a) makes a living selling smuggled Cuban cigars, and, like all of the characters in the film, is going through a rough period. A former pilot, he’s trying to recover a valuable painting and is having an affair with a friend’s wife, who uses a wheelchair.

Cuenca, the director, is also known for the documentary on Cuban baseball, El juego de Cuba, and was in Miami last year for the showing of his award-winning film, La flaqueza del bolchevique, a visit he also used to scout for Cuban actors here.

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