By IRINA ECHARRY
HAVANA TIMES, March 4- The 8th Showing of New Filmmakers finished off a very busy cultural month in Havana with a week of presentations from February 24 to March 1 at several theaters.
The audience at many of the theaters was truly scant. It wasn’t because of a lack of promotion, numerous times before the event an announcement was aired on television and radio. Maybe it was over saturation of events so close together.
Earlier in the month had been the Jazz Plaza Festival and the highly popular Cuba International Book Fair’s Havana segment.
Too bad for those that missed out; they don’t know what they missed.
The showing had an awards contest with competitors from several countries in the La Mirada del otro category; a tour of Cuba from the viewpoint of non-natives, some more artistic than others, but all with the intention to highlight something interesting about the island, be it people or feelings, or both.
That was the case with La Chirola, a documentary that received the award for photography and a mention for sound. Bolivian director, Diego Antonio Mondaca, tells the story of a man that gets out of prison, the consequences of that enclosure, and the imagination that it provokes in human minds.
La Chirola puts aside the traditional, proposing new ways to see life from the past and present with originality, via a character that alternated from sensitive to desperate to happy.
The best mid-length fiction film by a Cuban went to La Bala, by Pedro Luis Rodriguez. The war film was controversial both among the audience and the critics that coincided that although it was a very good effort, the errors it presents should not have been overlooked.
In my opinion it’s a good story, well told. It establishes a parallel between the preparation for battle and the combat itself, the characters of each man of the company comes out as the plot unfolds with esthetic quality and creative solutions for the actions moments.
The documentary category was much contested. Luces y Sombras (Lights and shadows) by music professor Irina Pacheco, covers the cultural life of the women’s Pro-Art Musical Society, a center for cultural promotion of the early 20th century whose history is barely known. The film tells the story of its founders, daring women that made Cuba into a good cultural venue.
Everyone that shined in the artistic world of the period visited the society. It had members in all social status and the entrance fee was set according to the person’s economic situation. Even the poorest were able to enjoy the memorable ballet performances, guitar concerts or theater that they offered.
Another good documentary was Gibara, ciudad abirera (Gibara, open city) by Carlos Barba. In it we make an incursion into the No Budget Film Festival founded by the late director Humberto Solas in Gibara, Holguin. By way of interviews with actors and actresses, and the festival’s manager, we learn how it began, how it has developed and the different opinions on its importance from film directors from around the world.
Susana Barriga’s The Illusion -which received a special mention in the best documentary category last December at the New Latin American Cinema Festival-, this time won best short documentary.
Without a doubt one of the audience’s favorite documentaries was Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor (Every thing in the past was better) by Zoe Garcia, which shared the mention for mid-length documentaries. A kind of puzzle gets assembled starting with the ruins of the Moscow Restaurant on O Street in Havana’s Vedado district. The director establishes an analogy between the fire at the restaurant and the fall of the Socialist Bloc at the end of the 1980s.
A writer, a sociologist, a painter, a movie critic and a filmmaker each give their analysis of what we were while the Soviet Union helped us and what we are today. The film poses the question: What’s left of the USSR that we drank so much from?
Sincerity, controversy, some contradiction and nostalgia are all present in this critical and necessary documentary that received a mention in the 8th Showing of New Filmmakers which ended with the desire for it to start again.