I arrived at the new Cuban airport where deep dark eyes of the customs officer looked into my soul and asked me on what I was bringing in, what I planned to do while in Cuba, had I ever been in Cuba before, what electronic equipment I was bringing in. I answered all and mentioned the computer, the iPad, the iPod, the cel phone and the camera. He asked what I would take pictures of – a puzzling question asked with no trace of friendly teasing and I was puzzled and answered (all in Spanish) whatever took my fancy, places, people…”Aves?”, he asked (“Birds?”) which really confused me, but I answered sure, birds, flowers, “las cosas bonitas” and he let me go. Maybe he considered Aves code language for Satellites. Anyway, I was relieved as I took a cab into Vedado, the “Forbidden” neighborhood just outside of Central Havana where my apartment is just across the street from the Hotel Nacional, the Havana Film Festival headquarters.
Cuba Journal: Nuevo? Cine? Latinoamericano?
The 35th Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano (aka Havana Film Festival), December 5 - 15th held its Opening Night at The Karl Marx
Theater. Opening night film, Gloria, was preceded by an impressive performance of Cuba’s Contemporary Dance Company which was followed by
a tribute to the animator Juan Padron whose cartoons are so loved that as film clips were played, the audience would
finish lines in unison and would yell the well known punchlines to jokes
joy. They displayed great cultural cohesion derived from the days of
limited television stations when everyone watched the same shows.
Cuba had the third largest number of theaters in Latin America. Three theaters were devoted to 3D.
At the opening night, Ivan Giroud, the festival's new director memorialized the passing of the Festival's founding father, Alfredo Guevera, The National Cuban Film Institute, ICAIC, also lost its head of production, Camilo Vives. And then, the death of Nelson Mandela, a very good friend of Cuba was announced. The audience stood and observed two minutes of silence. The next day they announced that all screenings would be canceled on day 3 as would all entertainment (music, dancing) throughout Cuba in a national day of mourning on the day of Mandela's funeral. After the funeral, everyone was talking of President Obama's handshake and conversation with Raul Castro who was quoted as saying Cuba would do all it could to have a rapprochment with the U.S. as long as they were treated with respect. As Cuba does not tell U.S. how to run its country, so they did not expect U.S. to tell them how to make its policy or run its country. But short of that Raul said Cuba was open to any and all discussion.
In an interview on the second da with Gloria’s male lead, Sergio Hernández, in Cuba for the first time, he was so moved by Cuba that the experience made him recall his Chilean identity before the regime of Augusto Pinochet drove him into exile. “The Cubans have a very strong spirit, a very affective manner of communicating. And they have lucid, clear-minded temperament. They constantly seem to be moving as well,” he said.
He was sad at the realization of how much the Pinochet era had changed the character of the Chileans The movies which came after Pinochet’s ouster were “repetitive, recurrently telling of our sadness but very poorly told.” Forty years later, Chile is not the same. “Actually there is now a richer literature, more metaphorical. Currently in artistic and creative terms, cinema is more attractive. New developments in diverse currents are taking place.” Gloria shows this diversity. “Gloria also plays political themes. His own character is what Chileans call a pastel, someone who does not know how to compromise. He is a man who cannot free himself from his history to begin a life. He is weighed down by his established family and cannot transform himself from within.”
The actor who has worked in cinema, theater and television with such great directors as Costa-Gavras, Miguel Littin, Raul Ruiz, Ricardo Larrain, Gustavo Graef-Marino and Pablo Larraín says that the success of Gloria in festivals worldwide is a result of the type of cinema created by the director Sebastián Lelio. “He is very young, but he is a master of his craft. He has revolutionized cinematic language. His features have enormous credibility and the contexts of his stories are real spaces; there is nothing false, no lies and no pretense.”
To learn more about the Havana Film Festival visit HERE. And stay tuned for more notes from Havana. It was a great experience!