“Cuban cinema is trying, in the midst of so many setbacks, to take flight.” These were the words of Iván Giroud at the opening of the 42nd International Festival of New Latin American Cinema also known as the Havana Film Festival which went ahead in Cuba to present almost 100 contemporary films and documentaries from 3-13 December.
The 2020 festival has been adapted to Covid-19 restrictions, but rather than cancelling it altogether like many international film festivals have done, its organizers decided to divide the festival into two stages: the December traditional event that would only screen films, and the judging and presenting of awards, lectures and debates are planned to be held in a second stage, March 11-21, 2021.
So the event’s Coral Awards will be presented during the second stage of the festival, and participants will discuss the theme proposed during the closing ceremony of the previous festival: cinema of young filmmakers in Latin America.
During the first stage of the festival, the sections ‘Latin America in Perspective’ and ‘International Contemporary Panorama’ were presented at Havana cinemas 23 y 12, Riviera, Yara, La Rampa and Acapulco, with strict sanitary measures and reduced capacity.
Under the slogan ‘Lo que receto el doctor’ (What the doctor ordered), the promotional image of this year’s festival alludes to medicine and health personnel, in gratitude for their work fighting Covid-19; which is why the two parts of this festival have been referred to as two doses of a medicine.
The Festival’s opening ceremony presented the film ‘La ultima cena’ (The Last Supper), a recently restored classic by Cuban director Tomas Gutierrez Alea.
The other films shown in December came from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Colombia, among others.
One of the documentaries screened was ‘Havana Comes to Brooklyn’, by New York based Venezuelan director América Maldonado, reflects on the cultural ties between Cuba and the United States.
The film shows moments of a tour starring the American pianist Simone Dinnerstein together with the Lyceum Orchestra of Havana, the first great musical group of young Cubans to arrive in Brooklyn since 1959.
The film, nominated for the NY Emmy Awards in 2018, was shot during the normalization process of bilateral relations promoted by the administration of President Barack Obama.
‘Havana arrives in Brooklyn’ demonstrates the potential of art and music as a way to understand relations between the US and the island, which has suffered 60 years of the U.S. economic and commercial blockade.
According to the Festival’s president Ivan Giroud, only two competitive elements, Posters and Unpublished Scripts, would take place in the first stage. The young Cuban graphic designer Edel Rodríguez (Mola) won the poster section for his work ‘Matrioska’, based on the concept of Russian dolls.
Also during December was the official award ceremony of the 2020 National Film Award. This year distinguished Cuban filmmakers Juan Padron and Francisco (Paco) Prats were joint winners but sadly Paco Prats died earlier in the year before the official ceremony.