We have selected 10 more feature films and documentaries from and about Cuba to watch from home while we stay home and stay safe during the covid19 pandemic – hope you enjoy them!
Strawberry and Chocolate
(1993, Dir Tomás Gutierrez Alea, ICAIC, Cuba) 104 mins, the famous feature film from Cuba’s late great director, Tomas Gutierrez Alea, set in 1979 about a young Communist student’s relationship with a gay Catholic writer, exploring tolerance, inclusion, homophobia and challenging its Cuban audience with great humour. Based on the short story by Cuban writer Senel Paz. A ground breaking film. Unmissable.
Watch trailer for Strawberry and Chocolate here
Memories of Underdevelopment
(1968, Dir Tomás Gutierrez Alea, ICAIC, Cuba) Sergio, a wealthy bourgeois aspiring writer, decides to stay in Cuba even though his wife and friends flee to Miami. Sergio looks back over the changes in Cuba, from the Cuban Revolution to the missile crisis, the effect of living in what he calls “an underdeveloped country”, and his relations with his girlfriends, completely from Sergio’s point of view. Adapted from a novel by Cuban writer Edmundo Desnoes, Alea developed a cinematic style as radical as the times he was chronicling, creating a collage of vivid impressions through the use of experimental editing techniques, archival material, and spontaneously shot street scenes. Intimate and densely layered. The question, perhaps, was what place a man like Sergio could have in a society trying to throw off the shackles of imperialism and the legacy of slavery, without dropping some privilege and joining in?
Watch trailer for Memories of Underdevelopment here
The Twelve Chairs
(1962, ICAIC, Cuba, Dir. Tomás Gutierrez Alea,95m) When the revolution triumphs, a wealthy woman hides her treasures in her 12 dining room chairs. After her death when her nephew finds out what she had done, the chairs have been distributed and are now in the possession of a dozen different people, so he sets out to track them down and get the treasures he believes rightfully belong to him. Alea’s first comedy contrasting disadvantages of greed and rewards of socialism.
(Dir Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba 1964) A little known film with the story focused on Haiti and the uplifting Cuban vision to build a better life for all. Beautiful cinematography in black and white this film is the link between Neorealism and ‘Imperfect Cinema’ developed a little later. Alea was assisted by young black female filmmaker Sara Gomez and Tata Guines was involved in the music. 1 hr 48 mins includes an interesting introduction by Sands cinema.
Watch on Vimeo here
DANCE ‘The Listening Room’
A filmed performance by Danza Contemporanea de Cuba – Cuba’s top contemporary dance company which celebrates 61 years this year. Choreography by Theo Clinkard from the UK. 26 mins. The show was performed in UK a few years ago. Each dancer has their own earphones. What if every dancer hears the music differently? You can watch for free on Youtube here but go see the company in a live performance as soon as it is possible – they are phenomenal.
POETRY Nancy Morejón, Cuban poet
Watch this 9 mins documentary on Youtube below about Morejon’s work by director Juanamaria Cordones-Cooke, including a reading of her most famous poem ‘Black Woman by the poet herself.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Simply Korda
(2011, Dir. Roberto Chile, Cuba, 19mins) Documentary featuring an interview with the Cuban photographer Alberto Korda about how he came to be a photographer of the revolution as it happened and to take the most famous photograph of Che Guevara. Watch in 2 parts here (selecting English subtitles) on Youtube here
MUSIC: ‘De vuelta al barrio’ /’Return to the Barrio’
(Dir. Alejandro Valera, 2019) Cuban music documentary featuring top Cuban salsa group El Niño y La Verdad, giving respect to their immense Cuban musical heritage. It has testimonies from the greatest figures of contemporary Cuban music such as maestros Frank Fernández, Adalberto Álvarez, Issac Delgado, Cesar Pedroso (Pupy), Elito Reve, Wilfredo Naranjo (Pachy), Juan Manuel Cerutto, Lazaro Valdes, Alexander Abreu, among others. Each of them comments on the popularity gained by El Niño y la Verdad while reflecting on music in Cuba. Director Valera has become one of the go to music video and documentary makers in recent years on the island.
Watch on youtube here
CLIMATE & COMMUNITY: Cuba Living Between Hurricanes
(Dir Michael Chanan 70 mins, UK, 2019) A film about a fishing port on the north coast of Cuba: Caibarién, where Hurricane Irma – one of the most powerful ever to sweep the Caribbean – made landfall on 9th September 2017. About the effects of climate across the centuries in a Caribbean island sucked into global markets for its commodity crops – tobacco, coffee and above all, sugar. About the growing threat from climate change, and the move towards reforestation, ecotourism and sustainable farming.
Watch the full documentary here with more information
The War on Cuba
3 compelling 12 min episodes about the effects of the US blockade on the economy and society of Cuba, made by a team of Cuban and US journalists and filmmakers, The Belly of the Beast.
Episode 1 here introducing the subject
Episode 2 here about the economy, farming and energy crises
Episode 3 here about healthcare, covid19 and Cuba’s international medical brigades