Since its first edition, the ICAIC Young Filmmakers Showcase has been controversial. It arose within the so-called audiovisual age, yet tends to be a departure from the mainstream industry. New subjects appear at the center of the stories, while there is also a pronounced critical essence, although this trend has been in decline and filmmakers are moving toward more intimate and universal themes.
The Showcase, a beautiful and important project of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), aimed at promoting audiovisual work produced beyond the mainstream and discovering new talents and perspectives, is today endorsed by young filmmakers who recognize it as a meeting space that offers the opportunity to see their work projected on the big screen.
The event has seen a bumpy ride at times, with achievements and failures, just like any creative quest, and even more so when this process is young, restless and nonconformist, but in each Showcase the search for more profound issues and improved techniques and visual aspects is demonstrated.
The competitive Showcase is also a space for these young creators to dialogue and interact with other generations of filmmakers, including eminent figures of Cuban cinema, who themselves were just starting out when ICAIC was founded in 1959.
During an extensive press conference on the 15th Young Filmmakers Showcase (April 5-10) at Havana's Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, its Director, Marisol Rodríguez, recalled that the Program for Young Filmmakers began in 2000, while a year later the first Young Filmmakers Showcase was held.
With this new event, the Cuban audiovisual scene was broadened, providing many young people with access to new technologies as a means of expression. Many of the first participants came from institutions such as the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television (EICTV), and later from the Audiovisual Faculty of the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA), or simply those who already had a camera.
Today the number of films presented reaches the hundreds, but the Competition Selection Committee – which exists as in any other festival or film event – has decided to present 53 works this year, of which 27 are fictional, 17 are documentaries and nine are animations. Given the co-authorship of some, however, the number of directors in competition is 61, and, as a novelty for the Showcase and Cuban cinema in general, 22 of these are women.
Of course, the Showcase is continually renewed and this 15th edition is even more provocative for young people given its central theme: "Suelten amarras" (Cast off constraints). To what end? "Toward creation, imagination, and nonconformity," young filmmaker and member of the Committee, Juan Carlos Calahorra, explained during the exchange with reporters.
Since only the Selection Committee has viewed the works in competition, the question was inevitable as to the main themes this year. "The tone moves away from aggressive incidents and there is exploration through narration. Female perspectives on rural issues, relationships, sexuality, gender violence, masculinities, and suicide stand out. Another group seeks to represent past conflicts, personalities with broad life experiences. A bold approach to multiple topics."
For the opening in Havana's Sala Chaplin, perhaps as a nod to the critics and the public, the animation No country for old squares, by Yolanda Durán; the documentary El otro viaje, by Damián Saínz, and the fictional short Con sana alegría, by Claudia Muñiz, were selected.
Among the many debates that the ICAIC Young Filmmakers Showcase has sparked over 15 editions, and beyond, is one regarding whether this wave of young directors represent rupture or continuity with the island's film history.
The program appears to offer a response to this controversy. The "filmic opening" which will be held in the Sala Chaplin prior to the official opening night will see the screening of works by two masters of Cuban cinematography: Aplausos, a short by Enrique Pineda Barnet, and Últimos días en La Habana, by Fernando Pérez.
Today, the Showcase is an established event. A gathering of young cinema, where a diversity of themes reigns, yet the search for an aesthetic quality continues; which is what will ultimately ensure – as demonstrated by the unfading work of Enrique Pineda and Fernando Pérez – the true artistic significance of the event going forward.
The light of cinema in the Young Filmmakers showcase Muestra Joven
If there is a space in Cuba which promotes the ideo-aesthetic dialogue in its widest sense, it is the young filmmakers' showcase ‘Muestra Joven' of ICAIC (national Cuban Cinema Institute).
This 15th edition of the event proves that the son of the cat continues to hunt the mouse, as the programme was well thought out and integrated with lots of debate about zones of creation and brings to light aspects of society rarely featured.
It happened this way, for example, with the screening of the documentary ‘Vidas sin mapa' (‘Lives without maps') which revealed the complex reality of a rural community in the Cuban province Ciego de Avila. The work of the filmmaker Yoanny Oliva addresses over 20 minutes part of the life of Yudianny, a girl who is partially sighted who lives in the ruins of an amusement park with few neighbours. For more than 7 years the small community has lived together on this land belonging to a national company, and now they are rebuilding the place, the community finds itself with uncertainty about where they will end up.
On the other hand, the project Roots and Routes (Raíces y Rutas) reconstructed the story of the lives of the newest national migrants and their dreams. The work of the diaspora of the 21st century, explained the researcher Zaira Zarza, is marked by the inclusion and diversity of subjects. The doctor of Cultural Studies presents in this showcase a selection of material filmed by Cubans in places as diverse as Switzerland and Mexico, resulting in her doctoral thesis at Queens University, Canada. The project proposes a debate on "the theme, little studied, of the diaspora as a dynamic space of immense potential for the development of a plural and decentralised area of thought on film", explained Zarza in the festival catalogue.
Equally the young filmmaker Leandro de la Rosa, presented as one of the works submitted for the competition his film ‘Patria blanca', the result following a space in the showcase ‘Making Film' (Haciendo Cine). The story of Matos, exemplary soldier during his military service who just before the death of his grandfather, feels disturbed in his life. He is the protagonist of this short of 27 minutes. De la Rosa compares pitching at ‘Making Film', where national and foreign film people attend, to a viaduct for the river of projects to find its channels.
"In my case I won a prize at the Animation Studios of ICAIC which resulted in a post production sound. It was very useful for me: I could make a mix on 5.1 with all the quality required", he explained in statements to Prensa Latina. The filmmaker recorded the music of the Cuban composer Guido Lopez Gavilan with an orchestra of the sort only possible if certain material conditions came with it."Thanks to ‘Making Film' some knots of this very difficult and tortuous journey towards the end of our films were undone, and our films grow of course for receiving this support", commented the recent graduate of the faculty of Audiovisual Media at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA, University of the Arts, Havana).
When the results of this competition are known, it will be the end of another annual oasis for reflection not only about cinema, but also to this great chiaroscuro which is Cuban society.
Translation by Cuba50