It is recognized that this improvement has been aided by new technologies, which bring down production costs and allow producers greater access, and this is not only the case for Cuba, so much so that Alfredo Guevara, president of the New Latin American Cinema Festival, has referred to "a tidal wave of young filmmakers."
Looking at the selection for the Festival's official competition, in full-length fiction films and shorts, animations and above all documentaries, it is evident that productions have emerged from the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) – although it is fair to say that its credit almost always appears apart – and that an independent cinema is being developed, especially taking into account the financial aspect.
Fiction remains the queen of the big screen and the supreme desire of every producer. Cuba is represented by the films Irremediablemente juntos, by Jorge Luis Sánchez; Se vende, by Jorge Perugorría and La película de Ana, by Daniel Díaz Torres, the last two still to be premiered.
Perugorría wrote and directed Se Vende which, as he announced on his website, is "a dark comedy," dedicated to his maestros in cinema, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío (Strawberry and Chocolate, Guantanamera). The cast includes young actors Dailenys Fuentes and Yuliet Cruz and brings back to the screen some greats of Cuban cinema: Salvador Wood, Raúl Pomares, Mario Balmaseda, Mirtha Ibarra, Coralia Veloz and Patricio Wood. The movie was produced by NMP Internacional S.A. and ICAIC.
The other unscreened full length movie, also in competition, is La película de Ana, by Daniel Díaz Torres, in which we will surely see an acting duel between Laura de la Uz and Yuliet Cruz.
According to Díaz Torres, "The film is related to the concept of prostitution, which is not only a problem of sexual interchange, as we sometimes use it. It has to do with all those things one does without believing in them, just to obtain material benefit, without really feeling authentic. I have no reticence at the hour of saying that it's a comedy and, for me, comedy has no element of superficiality. It seems to me that great comedy is something extremely difficult to do." It was produced by ICAIC.
The third Cuban film in competition is Irremediablemente juntos, another musical from Jorge Luis Sánchez, whose first full length movie was El Benny. On this occasion, he addresses contemporary Cuban problems. This was precisely the aspect which most captivated him in Pogolotti-Miramar, the Alexis Vázquez play on which his film adaptation is based. Double standards, adultery, corruption and racial discrimination are some of the conflicts reflected in the movie.
FIRST WORK COMPETITION
Directors Charlie Medina with Penumbras and Carlos Lechuga with Melaza have been accepted for official competition in the First Work category.
Lechuga has defined Melaza as "a social drama with touches of fantasy." It is the result of a Producciones de la 5ta Avenida/ French 13 Production/ Panamanian Jaguar Films coproduction. The Central American and Caribbean cinematographic fund CINERGIA awarded the project $15,000 for "the magisterial writing of the film script, which sensitively and originally narrates daily problems confronted by Cuban society."
Penumbras, by the experienced television producer Charlie Medina, also has a dramatic source, Penumbra en el noveno cuarto, by Amado del Pino. In order to address present-day human tensions and illusions, the dramatist and filmmaker make use of the national sport, baseball, and just four characters, developing the action through each of the game's nine innings.
Films selected for competition in this category are Camionero (Sebastián Miló); Lavadora (Yoel Infante) and Los anfitriones (Miguel Angel Moulet).
Camionero won the Caracol 2012 Grand Prize – sponsored by the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists' Radio and Audiovisual Association – and the prize for best fiction film in the ICAIC 2012 11th Young Filmmakers Show .
Without beating around the bush, Miló addresses the violence sometimes manifested in pre-university high schools in the countryside, exploring its genesis. The film is an acute reflection on the violence, fear and power relations established at the group level.
Lavadora, a 29-minute short in DVD, script and direction by Joel Infante Corbacho, won a mention in the Young Filmmakers Show. Its synopsis says: During the 1990's, Alicia, a young student, lives in country town with her grandmother Dora. An accident involving Dora obliges her granddaughter to find a perverse way of maintaining the home. Alicia prostitutes herself without thinking about the consequences.
The third Coral prize short is Los anfitriones, by Peruvian Miguel Angel Moulet, a 2010 graduate from the San Antonio de los Baños International Film and Television School (EICTV) Made at the Film School, it came third in Cinefondation, a section of the Cannes Festival promoting new international talent.
In 16 minutes, Los anfitriones narrates the life of two elderly campesinos, Félix and Josefina, who have to confront the death of one of them as the result of an illness.
With a great school in Cuba, documentaries triumphed this year in the selection process. The majority of them were made independently and by young filmmakers; almost all of them were in the ICAIC Show, an event which allows an appreciation of the principal themes, trends, styles and genres addressed.
Included for the Coral Prize are De agua dulce (Damián Saínz); La certeza (Armando Capó); El Evangelio según Ramiro (Juan Carlos Sáenz Calahorra) and Awairy (Valeria Ariñez).
De agua dulce (Best Documentary in the 2012 Show and Best Documentary at the Uruguay International Short Film Festival) is a discussion about violence. Sainz poetically relates the turbulence of the contaminated waters of a river to the obscure past of a man who testifies to his acts.
With La certeza, Armando Capó was the winner in the 3rd DocTV Latinoamérica Competition. An EICTV graduate, he uses human beings' search for faith as the subject of his documentary.
Capó found his characters for his story very close to Gibara, his native town. Most of the action takes place in a temple in La Caridad, a small town in Holguín.
The subject of El Evangelio según Ramiro, by Juan Carlos Sáenz Calahorra, is a transvestite who lives a modest life as an active member of the Catholic Church in Guanabacoa. He has a loving relationship with the custodian of the Virgen de la Asunción during festivities and processions. The documentary won the first Luces de la Ciudad prize in the 22nd Almacén de la Imagen in Camagüey, organized by the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS) in collaboration with ICAIC.
The fourth documentary in competition is Awairy, by Valeria Ariñéz, also an EICTV graduate, which recreates the daily life of Julieta, a 12-year-old girl who lives in the small Bolivian town of Potolo, known for its beautifully designed Jalga cloths woven for centuries by women.
Cartoons are maintaining their pace in Cuba. Official competition entries include La luna en el jardín (Yemelí Cruz and Adanoe Lima) and Lavando calzoncillos (Víctor Alfonso Cedeño).
La luna en el jardín is a freely adapted version of part of the novel Jardín by Dulce María Loynaz, National Literature Prize 1987 and Miguel de Cervantes Prize, a supreme poetess and astute storyteller. Produced in ICAIC's Animation Studios in the stop motion technique and in 3D, it is a work of art.
In Lavando calzoncillos, by presenter and comic strip artist Víctor Alfonso Cedeño from Cienfuegos province, likewise competing, the director directs his attention to the daily work of a woman.
OTHER COMPETITION CATEGORIES
In the category of Posters, which have a rich tradition in national cinematography, Cuba has six entries: El camarón encantado, by Claudia María Alvarez Alvarez; La gran solución, by José Pedro Camejo; La isla de corcho, by Francisco Masvidal; Y, sin embargo…, by Alberto Nodarse Galindo; as well as two by Marcelo Martín Herrera for Penumbras.
There are also six Cuban unedited film scripts competing in this category: Agosto, Abel Arcos and Armando Capó Ramos; Apuntes de madrugada, Juan García Prieto; Club de jazz, Esteban Insausti; Ismael, Carlos E. Machado Quintela; and Piano de solar, Alexis Pedro Oliva Roche.
EFFORT AND OPTIMISM
Announcing the 34th Festival, Alfredo Guevara noted, "Many young people are making a lot of films in Latin America and Cuba. Some of them are decidedly good, others not, but one must struggle to be fair. There is an enormous effort being made in Latin America for the advancement of cinema, and who can produce without optimism?"
In response to a question outside of the press conference, he noted that as president of the Festival, "he couldn't give opinions about films, but what is happening is what I have stated many times, it befell me in my life to design, with a team, ICAIC and the project of creating an active cinematography in our country. I believe that design is no longer operative, and this is demonstrated by the fact that only one third of the films presented to the Festival come from Cuban state cinema. The new technologies have unleashed the possibility of independent cinema. An independent cinema acceptable to society, and the majority percent is these independent films, so we are also facing a cinematographic explosion, but which has to find new forms of structuring itself, and of which we are no more than a thermometer. The Festival is a thermometer of a total transformation in Cuban cinematographic production."
It is not important now how the countless movies to be shown were filmed. What is interesting is that a good number of them have been selected to compete for Coral prizes in the 34th Festival.