Review of new Cuban cinema in 2014

The number of films in different stages of production is also a sign of an improvement in Cuban cinema in the year of ICAIC's 55th anniversary.

Before we look at the new releases we must remember that this year the National Cinema Prize was awarded to Juan Carlos Tabío, director of films such as Se permuta (his first fiction film 1983), Plaff (1988), Lista de espera (1999), El Elefante y la Bicicleta (1994), Aunque estés lejos (2003), El cuerno de la abundancia (2009) and El dulce amargo de la desesperación, the feature length film Siete días en La Habana (2010). Tabío also co-directed together with maestro Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Fresa y Chocolate (1993) and Guantanamera (1995), among the best examples of Cuban cinema.


Director Ernesto Daranas presented Conducta, which attracted more than 300,000 viewers during its opening four weeks. It tells the story of Chala, an 11 year old boy with a difficult life, and Carmela, his teacher. The plot begins to develop when Carmela gets sick and must leave her class; on her return she sees that everything has changed, including Chala's behavior. The film stars amateur child actors, Alina Rodríguez as Carmela and other actors such as Yuliet Cruz. Conducta is Daranas' third feature length film, who in 2008 released Los dioses rotos, a contemporary adaptation of the myth of Alberto Yarini – a well-made melodrama which, without departing from the conventions of the genre is a fresh, well acted and entertaining film, with credible characters and situations.

The summer is complete, finally, with Meñique, the first 3D Cuban animation. The film is based on José Martí's version of a traditional French tale, published in the first edition of La Edad de Oro, the children's literary magazine founded and edited by Martí. In a few frames from the film – directed by Ernesto Padrón – released to the press, the merits of vivid landscapes and people and with the music of Silvio Rodríguez can be appreciated. Padrón creates a type of "Cuban Middle Ages" given that the landscapes, cities and characters look like they are from the Valley of Viñales or Old Havana. The voices of the characters are composed of a star cast: Liéter Ledesma plays Meñique; Aramís Delgado – the King; Enrique Molina – Pedro; Hacha, the giant, Captain of the Guard and one of Meñique´s brothers, are voiced by Manuel Marín; Osvaldo Doimeadiós as the magic compact; Corina Mestre as the witch Barussa and Yoraisy Gómez as the princess.

The most recent cinematic release is Bocaccerías habaneras, by Arturo Sotto, winner of the Coral Script and Popularity Award at the 35th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. Sotto's (Pon tu pensamiento en mí, Amor vertical) film an adaptation of stories from the book El Decamerón, written by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio written between 1351 and 1353.

Under the slogan: Everyone has a secret story to tell, Sotto creates a comedy which, he said, is intended to "provide a cinematic spectacle which gives enjoyment, which gives pleasure; it's not about looking for laughs or humor in a critical vision of reality, it's about using reality to reflect on ones own laughter.

Los primos, No te lo vas a creer and El Cuento del tabaco are the three stories which structure the comedy, with a cast which combines experienced actors such as Mario Guerra, Zulema Cruz, Luis Alberto García, Jorge Perugorría and Patricio Wood, with young ones such as Yadier Fernández, Yerlín Pérez, Claudia Álvarez, and Yudith Castillo.

Boccaccerías Habanera, Sotto states, "is a very refined film in everything to do with eroticism, even in those scenes which may be more risqué there is an internal dialogue which criticizes this vision of eroticism which could be considered vulgar and also criticizes any element that can be considered kitschy."


Rudy Mora's film entitled Leontina will be released soon. The film tells the story of a group of children who are participating in an art competition and need the color blue; but they can only find it in the town of Palma Blanca, a place where laughter has disappeared and its inhabitants walk slowly, but less so in the shop The Legionnaire.

Juan Carlos Cremata is putting the final touches to the film Contigo pan y cebolla. A well-known story, given that it is one of the most widely performed plays in Cuban theatre, and its cinematic version is – according to the filmmaker – a tribute to the play's author, Héctor Quintero.

Also in the final stage of post-production is Fátima, the latest film directed by actor Jorge Perugorría. Staring Carlos Enrique Almirante, the film is based on the story El parque de la fraternidad, by Miguel Barnet and tells the story of a unique transvestite and self-proclaimed queen of Havana nights.

Fernando Pérez is still working on La pared de las palabras. The story tells of the difficult life of an ill man with learning difficulties, the relationship with his family and other people with lives no less troubled, in another excellent examination of the human condition. The film was shot on location in Santa Fé and Quinta Canaria with a star cast: Jorge Perugorría; Isabel Santos; Laura de la Uz and Verónica Lynn, there is no doubt that we can expect a duel between these four greats.

Also in post-production is Omega 3, the first feature length Cuban science fiction film. Directed by Eduardo del Llano, and starring Carlos Gonzalvo and Daylenis Fuentes.

Venecia addresses the challenge of being a woman in Cuba today, a film yet to be released, directed by Enrique Álvarez. The film depicts the adventures of three young hairdressers who on pay-day decide to go shopping. This is the departure point for a series of unexpected events which will characterize their remarkable journey, through the night and lasting until the following day, leaving them without a cent. The following morning, with no money but a lot of hope, they dream of opening a beauty salon called the "The seductive city of canals."

With performances by Laura de la Uz, Luis Alberto García, Jorge Perugorría and Isabel Santos, director Marilyn Solaya will soon be presenting Vestido de Novia. The film focuses on the conflict between Rosa Elena and Ernesto, in Havana in 1994. She, a nursing assistant. He, head of a construction brigade. They fall in love, get married and live happily until a secret from Rosa Elena's past threatens their harmony and makes them victims of violence, prejudice and stereotypes, from a society still governed by machisimo.

Vuelos prohibidos, Rigoberto López's latest cinematographic project, featuring the popular singer Paulo FG, is filmed in both Havana and Paris.

Finally, young director Jessica Rodríguez will release her first film – Espejuelos oscuros – this year, featuring Luis Alberto García and Laura de la Uz, who each play four different characters. Rodríguez stated, "The film takes place in four different moments of Cuban history, all of which are related to the conflicts of being a woman, between her desires and what society expects of her. Conflicts of an extraordinary character still exist under the skin of seemingly mediocre and ordinary women."


The Cuban documentary has always been praised for its style, for its ample thematic range, and although it doesn't take pride of place in the category, documentary films continue to be made. This year, on the 55th anniversary of ICAIC, three documentaries of diverse cultural aspects, were premiered. The first of these was Humberto, by Carlos Barba, which takes a close look at the great Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás (1941-2008); a simple and deep analysis, a tribute to the life and work of the renowned Cuban director (Lucía, Cecilia, Un hombre de éxito) who left an indelible mark on Latin American cinema.

The second release was Yo sé de un lugar, by Swiss director Beat Porter, about the popular Cuban musician Kelvis Ochoa. The documentary recreates scenes of places and people which have marked the artist's life and work, among them Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Frank Fernández, Yusa , and Ernán López-Nussa.

The trio is completed by Me dicen Cuba, by Pablo Massip, which includes the testimonies of more than 70 Cuban musicians – with Silvio Rodríguez, Sergio Vitier, the duo Buena Fe, Vicente Feliú, trova singer Lázaro García, Digna Guerra, Raúl Paz, Luna Manzanares, Vania Borges, and Paulo FG. The artists, part of Cuba's contemporary musical vanguard, talk about universal values such as, the homeland, family, music, love, friendship, heroism and peace, among other topics. They are the musicians who have come together to record an album dedicated to the Cuban Five.

Previously, the documentary by Lourdes Prieto, Hay un grupo que dice, was premiered – to great public acclaim, charting the history of ICAIC's Sound Experimentation Group, created in 1969. It includes interviews with Leo Brouwer, Silvio Rodríguez, Sara González, Eduardo Ramos, Sergio Vitier, Pablo Menéndez, Noel Incola, Pablo Milanés and Víctor Casaus, who produced the film from the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center.


There is just enough space for one fiction short. Tarde para Ramón by young director Daniel Chile, which lasts 10 minutes and features Jorge Perugorría, Maydely Pérez, Yaniel Castillo, Yasmany Guerrero, Lyn Cruz, Gina Morales and Omar Franco, in a story, framed within the genre of drama. It tells of Ramón's decision to make amends with his daughter and the unexpected situations which will influence their lives. Given this long list, there is reason to believe that Cuban cinema, in this first half of 2014, will again bring laurels.

Original report here