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The Future of Havana Film Festival

Photo of Sydney Levine, Peter Belsito By Sydney Levine, Peter Belsito | SydneysBuzz December 24, 2011 at 11:20AM

The Festival staff has been stable, if noticeably getting older. Recently, there have been other subtle changes which makes one wonder where and how the Fest will proceed in our (and Cuba's) rapidly changing times.
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The front of Hotel Nacional, Havana, where many events in the Festival del Nuevo Cine take place
Peter Belsito The front of Hotel Nacional, Havana, where many events in the Festival del Nuevo Cine take place

We have been attending Havana Film Fest for some years now.  

Its proper name is Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine LatinoAmericano and it has just completed its 33rd edition last week.  It is an outstanding showcase of Cuban and Latin American Cinema. T

his year the festival also had showcases and discussions of German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, and Servian films.

It's a long running event with always interesting films and great gathering of international, and especially Latin American, film people.

The Festival is held in large theaters all over Havana. 

We were particularly thrilled one year to attend a screening at the packed 2000 seat Karl Marx theater.  The theaters are not new but they are filled with visitors and Cuban youth.  

Most screenings are very well attended although the rich array of deeply researched Cuban documentaries has a smaller but very devoted following than the international and Cuban features.  Juan of the Dead was the most well attended with thousands left outside without seats so that it had to be rescheduled several times to accomodate moviegoers. The winner of four prizes, HavanaStation, the debut of Ian Padron, also won at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival and is Cuba's submission for Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The audience winner China Story was an Argentinian cross cultural delight starring Taiwan born, Buenos Aires raised actor Ignacio Huang 

There are also many sidebar events, such as a master class and a conversation with director-writer-producer Frank Pierson (Dog Day Afternoon), events featuring North American views of Latin America (guests this year were Luis Valdez whose conversation was enlightening and Gregory Nava), workshops, press conferences and seminars all held to benefit the filmmakers attending.


The main facility to host people and the industry center and events like panels, etc. is the venerable Cuban art deco landmark, the Hotel Nacional.  We are told that the Festival is given many facilities (e.g., the Nacional) at a modest cost.  Therefore government support is 

necessary to continue, and the government like all governments worldwide is paring back its supports.

International Film and Television School (EICTV) students Kenia Salas Laborde (Cuba) and Aleksandra Machuszek (Poland) meet with Sydney Levine about their prize winning doc project, Paris Cafe.
Peter Belsito International Film and Television School (EICTV) students Kenia Salas Laborde (Cuba) and Aleksandra Machuszek (Poland) meet with Sydney Levine about their prize winning doc project, Paris Cafe.

This year, however, the Festival was greatly enhanced with the participation of the international film school, EICTV, which was founded by renowned writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez with his Nobel Prize Money 25 years ago.  Nuevas Miradas is the meeting of developing film projects of students and graduates of the International Film an

d Television School (EICTV) as well as young independent filmmakers that work in their first projects. After preparing, the students presesnt the projects to the audience and then go into one on one sessons with industry experts.  The projects and students were very sharp and several of them will certainly go on to completion and will be shown in events around the world.

The Festival staff has been stable, if noticeably getting older.  

Recently, there have been other subtle changes which makes one wonder where and how the Fest will proceed in our (and Cuba's) rapidly changing times.

It's probably more gossip that inside intel…but you definitely could say that the buzz around the Fest is that with formerly designated Fest Director-to-be, Ivan Giroud, now gone from the Fest (he has moved to Spain after having been somewhat summarily fired via e-mail from what we hear) and with the longtime Fest Head and older compatriot of Fidel Castro (since their youth) Alfredo Guevara aging and given the economic situation in Cuba, the Festival is very precarious. (Alfredo is actually older than Fidel.)

Will we have a Festival in December 2012??

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