http://havanajournal.com/culture/entry/young-new-cuban-directors-provide-a-fresh-look/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

Young New Cuban Directors Provide a Fresh Look

Posted April 19, 2007 by Cubana in Cuba Culture.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dalia Acosta

HAVANA, Apr 12 (IPS)

Run-down neighborhoods, cynical, skeptical young people, locals surviving in buildings crumbling around them, people forging new paths in remote mountain villages: these are all fragments of reality that live and breathe in documentaries by a new generation of Cuban filmmakers.

Born out of the crisis that has afflicted the Cuban film industry since the 1990s, a new wave of young, mainly independent directors has opened up space for low-budget productions, and generated a certain amount of hope for the future of filmmaking in this Caribbean island nation.

“I’m trying to portray social issues that are hardly touched on by other media in our country, or are only addressed from a distorted, triumphalist point of view. These subjects, because they are in a way hidden topics, are not debated in society,” Aram Vidal, director of two documentaries about Cuban youth: “Calle G” (G Street) and “De Generación,” told IPS.

“Behind the questions, doubts and reflections of these young people in ‘De Generación’ there is a very clear warning: our society is not perfect, and we want to be a part of it, to contribute our ideas and participate in possible changes,” said Vidal, 26.

The film shows interviews with a group of young Cubans who grew up in the shadow of the economic crisis that has affected the country over the last 15 years, and the contradictions in the social and political project constructed by their elders.

Vidal studied social communication, not film-making, and yet he has already been awarded prizes for his work, including a Distinction at the Sixth National Exhibition of Young Filmmakers held in Havana in February.

“In my opinion, films have the power to bring issues to public attention that are more interesting when they are debated, not just among a group of friends in a narrow corridor, but when discussion expands and they become a social force for change and creative transformation,” he said.

However, the films by this new generation of directors are seldom screened outside festivals and special exhibitions, and are hardly ever broadcast by the mass media.

According to Cuban director Enrique Colina, there is a whole list of documentaries by young filmmakers that have suffered a sort of “unwritten censorship” at the hands of national television.

“It’s a pity that their efforts and concerns, expressed in what are sometimes truly significant films, should be relegated to being shown just once at an annual festival,” Colina said in January, in an email debate about Cuba’s cultural policy among local intellectuals and artists.

Colina’s message, one of more than 100 emails exchanged in the debate, mentioned a long list of films produced in Cuba that have never been aired on TV here. Among the most significant is “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate, 1993), by co-directors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio.

“I have thought for a long time that television ought to make room for Cuban audiovisual productions in general, and should also show these films made by young directors, which are barely seen outside the week that the young filmmakers exhibition is on,” said Vidal. In addition to their invisibility in the media, independent productions face the difficulties inherent to their low budgets, and the barriers put up by the authorities to filming in certain locations.

“One of the main problems is the lack of funding. Getting enough resources is a big challenge, and since usually very little money is available, this has a direct and immediate effect on the planned film,” said Alina Rodríguez, the director of “Buscándote, Habana” (Looking for You, Havana), a documentary about life in the neighborhoods where migrants from the interior live without authorization from the government in the Cuban capital.

“Filming permits are another major constraint, because shooting a film becomes a bureaucratic hassle. Any official can stop the filming at any time,” said Rodríguez, 23.

A student at the Higher Institute of Art, Rodríguez was arrested by the police several times while making her first film, in spite of having permits. In the end, she was not allowed to shoot scenes in the Havana neighborhood of San Miguel del Padrón, where she had done six months of research.

Those who remain outside government institutions also receive no backing for “searching the archives, or distributing the material and having legal protection so that no one can steal that material and exhibit it without permission in other countries,” Vidal said.

Rodríguez said she feels part of a tradition of Cuban women filmmakers, although she said that few of her generation know anything about them. She and seven other women showed films at the Sixth Exhibition of Young Filmmakers.

The exhibition presented six works of fiction and 23 documentaries, demonstrating the preeminence of the documentary category among novice filmmakers.

“In Cuban cinematography, the documentary form outstripped fictional films, until the film production crisis in the 1990s, when the genre died out,” said Jorge Luis Sánchez, the director of “El Benny”, about the life of popular Cuban musician Benny Moré (1919-1963).

Sánchez is one of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition’s most fervent fans. In his words, the exhibit “widens the circle” to make room for new entrants to the movie world. He said their work “is part of the best tradition of Cuban filmmaking.”

“It’s part of it, and sometimes it also contradicts it, which is a good thing, because every alternative film should contribute to broadening what we call Cuban filmmaking, not by contributing to a narrow vision, but to a vision which takes diversity into account,” he said.

In Sánchez’s opinion, even when the state Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), the main producer of films on the island, recovers financially from the economic crisis, “there should be room for freedom.”

By freedom he meant “not only personal fulfillment, freedom of expression, freedom from censorship, but also the freedom of being able to gather a small team together and film a story,” he said.

Member Comments

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On April 20, 2007, Don wrote:

Dalia Acosta
HAVANA, Apr 12 (IPS)


Run-down neighborhoods, cynical, skeptical young people, locals surviving in buildings crumbling around them, people forging new paths in remote mountain villages: these are all fragments of reality that live and breathe in documentaries by a new generation of Cuban filmmakers.


Don:


I thought Dalia was talking about Detroit, or Portland Oregon, or any small town in the west of the USA. Therefore I needed a reality check—yes this person is talking about Cuba, I should feel at home there, and much work to do, on my part,  to make improvements. Sounds like opportunity to me.


Continuing:


Born out of the crisis that has afflicted the Cuban film industry since the 1990s, a new wave of young, mainly independent directors has opened up space for low-budget productions, and generated a certain amount of hope for the future of filmmaking in this Caribbean island nation.


Don:

You mean to tell me that Cubans have the technology, equipment and know how, to even make a low budget film? Nothing can be worse off than the French low budget films, or USA soap operas. Nothing at all, but a pure strain of the mind even with subtitles. What ever Cuba puts out in a movie has to be better and not a chance of failure.


In all honesty, I was thinking the other day about Cuba, as I do often. Why can’t Cuba make movies—such a rich culture, such filming opportunities of sights, sounds, buildings, lands; OH please let Cuba make movies, and let them be original.  However, I need subtitles, as all I speak is English, and save me from the Hungarian goulash of CG fakery, called Universal movies or WB Inc.


A country that can engage in the arts of stage acting is a fine country. Very expressive even at its worst. People are fun. That means law and order, wealth, and free time to think beyond the slave labor of every day life, as in the USA, and use the human mind for pleasure. Such good things come from the arts, unimaginable and presenting a new reality is always good.


Continuing:


“I’m trying to portray social issues that are hardly touched on by other media in our country, or are only addressed from a distorted, triumphalist point of view. These subjects, because they are in a way hidden topics, are not debated in society,” Aram Vidal, director of two documentaries about Cuban youth: “Calle G” (G Street) and “De Generación,” told IPS.


Don: 

Yes, and in the USA there is a hidden culture of the blacks, gays, religious cults, Ozarks, Amish, Irish, Jews, and now the Mexicans; they all speak a language I do not understand. In addition, the hidden culture of the Super Rich, politically strong, goes way beyond looks and brightly colored commercials, or the arrogance of AP reporting, that is NOT reporting but opinions.


I have read that in time past—in a great time past—the youth always rebelled, perhaps that is the redeeming feature of humanity as not to stagnate and rot away. Three cheers for the youth, unless they are too stupid to survive—yes there are limits. However, Cuba prospers—double three cheers to the Cuban youth.


Continuing:
“Behind the questions, doubts and reflections of these young people in ‘De Generación’ there is a very clear warning: our society is not perfect, and we want to be a part of it, to contribute our ideas and participate in possible changes,” said Vidal, 26.

Don:

Right on, I get excited, we have the makings of a real good movie here. Give me subtitles and I am all ears. Where do I go to see this movie?  I want copyright protections to makers, law enforcements for their protection of civil rights, and their rights to advertise.  To go public takes intestinal fortitude and to stand before world opinions takes guts. Viva la Cuba—the sun is shining so the very best is yet to come. Yes, I want the rule of law, as that is where humans can prosper, and that is what I want as a rebellious youth myself.


Continuing:


The film shows interviews with a group of young Cubans who grew up in the shadow of the economic crisis that has affected the country over the last 15 years, and the contradictions in the social and political project constructed by their elders.

Don:

This was filmed in the USA, right, about the USA. You can NOT get any more contradictions than in the USA. We are the KING and Queen and off spring of bastard whelps that thrive on contradictions.


Those dam Cubans think they can read and write, then they can out do Americans for contradictions, not a chance in hell. If they only knew what we Americans have to live with as total insanity of our own kind, they would stay put on their island, and pray to god every American would get electric shock treatment by lightning, as that might sober us up, but not likely.


Continuing:


Vidal studied social communication, not film-making, and yet he has already been awarded prizes for his work, including a Distinction at the Sixth National Exhibition of Young Filmmakers held in Havana in February.

Don:

This can NOT be in Cuba, I thought all Cubans were starving to death, huddled in a corner sucking their thumbs, protecting children with their bodies, with Castro swinging his whip, holding a pistol,  leaving stripes, and wounds yelling, “Work you dirty dogs! Work, for my glory!”


Now you mean to tell me awards are given out in Cuba, to people educated in Cuba in communications to world standards,  but the person took up film making, won distinctions from his peers “in public” over a rebellious movie, and this person was NOT arrested and hung the next day with Castro pissing on his grave.


Could it be everything heard in the USA about Cuba is a lie? What is fact;  Castro, as elected president, severed the electorate as well all he could, he supported FREE education and health care, independence of a nation, so HE, himself, could live to see the day of the next generation in open rebellion as himself was at one time.


The creativity of the arts does not form in a vacuum. There must be law and order, civil liberties, safety for all against crimes, wealth enough to have leisure time, social or cultural organizations in free comings and going, freedom of thought, and plenty of information to draw from.  This is a fact of life and not deniable.


This article was meant to be repressive, and slam the Cuban nation, a strike against communism, but it failed miserably. Cuba has always sought law and order. The Cubans took up the threads left by a vastly corrupted government about 50 years ago, and they have built on good things ever since. It has been a long haul of me watching Cuba from my childhood in Florida, and even my ears of doubt had to give way to facts, law, statutes, and good reasoning. Cuba is on the right track, has been for the duration of Castro, and the very best is yet to come, NO USA needed.


Don

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On April 20, 2007, publisher wrote:

Don,

Once again, your words are convicting your of your ignorance. PLEASE stop posting your uninformed opinions. Your logic does not make sense.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On April 20, 2007, publisher wrote:

Also, you said you didn’t know that Cuba makes movies? The Habana Film Festival has been running for 28 years!

If you don’t even know that then how can you comment on the culture?

Honestly Don, I don’t know why you are so passionate about what you say when you don’t know what you are talking about.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On April 24, 2007, Don wrote:

Learning is on going, and never stagnates. I did not know Cuba has been making films for 28 years. I being a movie enthusiast would love to see a Cuban movie. What can I tell you, the more I read the better I get. Thank you for your information.


Why do I read and study about Cuba? Because the USA hates that country with a passion, and I do not share the USA’s attitude. If there is ‘black out” of information, it is the USA’s fault, and not that of the Cubans. Therefore, I thank you for any information I can get. To understand the Cuban culture is a good thing to do.

 

Don

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On April 24, 2007, publisher wrote:

Don,

Everything in your post is great except

“Because the USA hates that country with a passion, and I do not share the USA’s attitude. If there is ‘black out” of information, it is the USA’s fault, and not that of the Cubans.”

1. The USA does not hate Cuba. The old Cuban exiles in Miami hate Fidel. Bush listens to the Cuban Americans.

2. Information “black outs” are Fidel’s fault.

Keep reading and learning about Cuba and refrain from making broad, uneducated statements because they simply do not make sense.