The documentarists between Washington and Havana

Four years ago, the news of the Artes de Cuba Festival at the Kennedy Cultural Center in Washington was quite an event not only artistically but also politically, as this cultural exchange between Cuban and American artists seemed impossible due to the complex political situation between the two countries during the Trump administration.

In any case, separating politics from artistic work is complex, but an event of great moment and relevance in the history of Cuba and the United States took place, although amidst this scenario there was no shortage of setbacks.

Apart from the Cuban delegation, a group of independent filmmakers responsible for the production of an audiovisual material about the event received the news of the refusal of permission to film inside the site. It was time to reinvent yourself or go home.

For a Cuban independent filmmaker, such mishaps are not uncommon. Dealing with refusals to shoot, delays or lack of permits, and economic and resource constraints are common challenges for those who choose to shoot films in Cuba without the protection of state institutions.

bridges from anywhere

However, the prospects for Inti Herrera and Reymel Delgado, director and producer of the audiovisual film respectively, were worse as they were in a foreign country and financial resources were running out by the day, a situation Herrera described as “a white man moment” describes . It’s one of those moments where there is no present or past. Neither solution nor future.”

“So,” he adds, “it has to do with the spirit with which you approach the creative act. Usually you use intuition. Nothing concrete yet or very easy to intellectualize. You know that you are searching for something and that there is potential in this moment of reality that you grasp. Suddenly you no longer have access to that raw material to make your film. In our case, also fear of finances. Initially we had no support other than the connections between us and small amounts of money, which sparsely helped us when we were away from home, in a place many of us were visiting for the first time.

“This feeling that there is no alternative helps you to be versatile, to look for options and to reconfigure difficulties in order to achieve a goal. Sometimes the team didn’t know, but we didn’t have the budget to feed ourselves the following week. I think there’s an attitude of coming from the bottom, coming up that contributes to a certain epic in Cuban independent cinema. Even decadent at times, but epic nonetheless.”

Then they understand that besides what happened in this place, the most important thing was in the immediate vicinity: the artists, the people who made everything possible that was not possible documented in picturesall the human potential that has brought her to this point, people from here and there, united to advance a dream.

Make a fresh start

Then they had (another) documentary. Through the guests they try to delve into the complex history of relations between Cuba and the United States and how, based on willpower and despite all obstacles, “art builds bridges between peoples and reminds us that the forces that unite are deeper than those that separate, ”recalls the dossier of La gente del documentalname of the movie.

The task of understanding the connection between art and politics is complicated. “The artist cannot be so naive as not to understand, to have no political intuition, how good politics always carries an artistic halo. Nothing inherent in man can be alien to us. And at the same time there is no artistic construction aimed directly at a political result. Socialist realism provided good examples of this,” explains the director In Cuba.

And he specifies: “These two concepts necessarily go hand in hand, but they are at very different stages of development. Our film deals with this in parallel, without directly aiming for a political result.”

In addition to the artists, historians, politicians and cultural workers from both countries offer a panorama of what was experienced at the time in the midst of Donald Trump’s tenure, providing a necessary context to raise awareness of the dimension of what happened at the time.

The names of Arturo O’Farril, Aymée Nuviola, Yissy García, Aldo López-Gavilán, José Parlá and Manuel Mendive are some of those that we can see in this film, along with the testimonies of other personalities such as Emilio Cueto, art collector and Cuban explorer; Carlos Gutiérrez, United States Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009; and Emily Mendrala, former Executive Secretary of the Center for Democracy in America, currently Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, United States Department of State.

The film, a co-production between i4films, FacFilms, Wajiros Films and La Rueda Films, will premiere on May 5th at 18:00 at the Charles Chaplin Cinema and will be an example to internalize how difficult it is to create independent cinema do in Cuba, although Inti remains somewhat reticent about this:

“It is very difficult to theorize how a work will be viewed in the future. I like to see the level of communication that a film achieves with its audience. If it connects, whether your concerns and the aesthetic proposals that you have been able to bring to the theater or any screen make sense to others” are some of the questions that will be answered after his brief stay in cinemas. because for now it will only be visible on the billboard in room 1 of the Multicine Infanta from May 6th to 8th at 17:00

This documentary was also one of the winning materials in the first edition of the Fund for the Promotion of Cuban Cinemaand one of the first to be released in films in the country, another point for the necessary dialogue to be encouraged between independent filmmakers and the Cuban Institute for Cinematography and Film (ICAIC).

“I think that Cuban independent cinema must be written about it. Perhaps in a less tense time, when the political is not the first requirement, but rather the sociological of art, the aesthetic and above all the anecdotal, because based on my experiences I imagine that it can become a good book , all the incidents that a Cuban filmmaker going through to make his film. But it’s time to put some distance. In short, after earning their bread, the Greeks began to reconsider themselves. First things first,” Herrera tells us.

“I want the message to be convincing, not because it’s the only alternative, but because it’s part of the path of virtue, of humanity. It is very important for our country that we see a horizon where people decide to bet on it. Beyond whether you physically live here or there. There has to be a common language, a basic understanding that will take us forward. The important thing is, to say it with one of the interviewees: ‘Put yourself in the other person’s shoes’, the rest is very simple.”

Yoel Rodríguez Tejeda

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