Short films bring humour, psychological terror and feminism at the Havana International Film festival

Still from ‘Las Polacas’ short film by Cuban director Carlos Barba

Short stories are part of the creative impulse to rethink the dynamics of the Latin American reality. During the ‘Second Dose’ of the 42nd International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana this December, short fiction films came out as one of the most interesting categories in the competition.

This edition of the film festival brings together a total of 21 films produced between 2019 and 2020. A dozen countries in Latin America and elsewhere were involved in its production. In this section, Cuba had an outstanding presence for having made, totally or partially, 7 of the films.

Within the national team is Las Polacas (The Polish women) (25 minutes). Written and directed by Cuban filmmaker Carlos Barba, it arises from the co-production of the American Mareafilms and the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). The leading roles were played by the acting talents of Coralia Veloz and Tahimí Alvariño. The author of 25 hours —presented in this same festival in 2017— brings us, on this occasion, the intimate conflicts that are hidden in the past of a mother and her daughter.

Also among the proposals is a co-production entitled Ekaterina (Spain and Cuba), by Spanish director Miguel G. Morales, a graduate of the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television, Cuba.

Nara, under the direction of Rosa María Rodríguez Pupo, is evidence of the growing insertion of Cuban women in the world of cinema. The director’s concentration on the character of Nara serves as a reflection on the awakening of sexual desire in women.

For their part, the shorts El rodeo, by Carlos Melián Moreno, premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival; Blue Hour, by Horizoe García Miranda; Last song for Mayaan, by Lisandra López Fabé, and Hapi Berdey Yusimi in Yur Dey, by Ana A. Alpízar, reflect everyday themes, such as: folklore, old age, prostitution, material deprivation and desolation.

The fiction shorts in competition also come from other parts of the continent. Such is the case of El silencio del río, by Francesca Canepa, the only one from Peru, which set a precedent in the history of cinema in that country. It turns out to be the first Peruvian short shortlisted at the Academy Awards (2021). Likewise, multi-awarded as best fiction short film, where the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short Film stands out at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF), the film focuses on the gaze of a 9-year-old boy who finds himself in the Peruvian jungle.

Brazil is also present with a couple of shorts. The first is A Barca, by the Brazilian director and poet Milton Resende. Another story set in the natural settings of South America, which was included in the IV Incentive Award for Audiovisual Production of Alagoas. And also Menarca, directed by Marilia Halla, selected by the Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival. The work constitutes a reinterpretation of the myth of the toothed vagina, putting on the table the dissimilar sexist prejudices that affect women in the region.

Similarly, tMexico appears with two co-productions. On the one hand, there is El triste (Mexico, United States), by Manuel del Valle. This young man is considered one of the ambassadors of Latin culture in the entertainment world, counting among his awards the Shorts Mexico and the Bentonville Film Festival. Meanwhile, the 11 minutes of Huir, by Daniel Delgadillo Hernández, were part of the 18th Edition of the Morelia International Film Festival.

Chile is another of the countries that has a good number of films in this section of the contest. From Sebastián S. Claro is the film In the sky you let me fall, whose international premiere was at the 36th Guadalajara Film Festival and on Chilean soil, at the 16th Santiago International Film Festival.

The shortest short in this show also comes from Chile, with only 7 minutes, and is titled The Hidden Light. The first audiovisual experience of its director, Diego Martínez Ruiz, arises as a product of the Realization Workshop developed at the Punta Arenas Cultural Center that took place in 2019.

In addition to the above are The Rings of the Serpent, by Edison Cájas González, and La gambeta, directed by Catalina Alarcón Reyes, which had its premiere in November this year at the Uruguayan Cinematheque. This latest production tells the story of Marcelo, a 12-year-old boy, his imagination and his fascination with football.

Also included are Periferia, by the Ecuadorian Vanessa Fernández, and El mago, by the Dominican Julia Scrive-Loyer.

After having participated in the official selection of the 77th Venice International Film Festival and having been awarded the Horizonte prize, Mariana Saffon from Bogotá comes up with her work by her Entre tú y Milagros (Colombia, United States). This is a story that emerged from the introspection of the author, who puts on the skin of a 15-year-old girl the dilemmas of death and the acceptance of the maternal figure.

To this piece are added 5 bullets (Colombia, Argentina), by Daniela Castillo and Juan Ignacio Alzate Arango. Also Las fauces, by Mauricio Maldonado, who was the author of previous works such as In search of the air and The night shines. The fantastic story of Deivis in Las Mauces participated in the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival and earned him the Best Latin American Short Film Award at the 27th Valdivia International Film Festival.

This is how the fiction short film contest is configured. An exhibition that rediscovers nature and continental idiosyncrasy, with stories of an existentialist tone, endowed with humour, psychological terror and feminism. Undoubtedly, the selection of this 42nd International Festival of New Latin American Cinema brings us great stories that come in small packages.

Link to original article in Spanish on ICAIC website