My Thesis and Old Heads (part I)

By Francisco Castro

[…] the dream is made by hand and without permission
Plowing the future with old oxen. Silvio Rodriguez

Julio Antonio Mella, the Cuban student leader during the Machado dictatorship (1925-1933), once said: “Everything in the future must be better.”
Julio Antonio Mella, the Cuban student leader during the Machado dictatorship (1925-1933), once said: “Everything in the future must be better.”

Conflict between generations is like a snake that bites its tail. Throughout all times, everywhere in the world, this conflict has existed – demonstrated in the unwillingness of the prevailing generation to hand over power to its natural successors.

It’s positive that this conflict exists, provided it serves to enrich the experiences of the emerging generation.  In some way, those bidding farewell should guarantee that their substitutes maintain the order and quality of work that they themselves carried out in dissimilar times.

Julio Antonio Mella, the Cuban student leader during the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado (1925-1933), once said “everything in the future must be better.”  It is a historical obligation.

What is not so good is when the emerging generation is coerced by its predecessors, who don’t want to let go.  This is precisely the conflict that has reigned throughout history.  There have been exceptions of course, though it is not exactly those exceptions that I will speak about now.

My story -forthcoming in a series of diary posts- spans from December 2008 until June 2009, while I was working on my thesis exercise to obtain my university degree in audiovisual communications; my specialty is directing.  The exercise consisted making an audiovisual work (documentary, fiction, video, commercial or radio spot) and a written report that would serve as a log of my creative process.

The Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) signed an agreement with the Superior Institute of Art (ISA), in which ICRT committed to support some thesis exercises of the ISA’s Faculty of Art of Audiovisual Media (FAMCA), in cases where ICRT was interested in broadcasting the work.

With this in mind, I chose the story “El fin” (The End), by Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges, to adapt it to television language.  I felt it needed a producer who could offer a budget to carry out the production of that work.

As it turned out, the agreement between ICRT and ISA was not respected by either of the two institutions, and one of the reasons was the perennial conflict between generations.

When we younger workers arrived at the Drama Editing Department of Cuban Television (TVC), I heard the most absurd and prejudiced comments: like, “These kids are here to take away our livelihood family staples basket***,” or “these youngsters should be knocking outteleclases***, and those us with experience should be directing the major productions.”

This was the group I had to confront to perform the audiovisual work needed to obtain my university degree.

To be continued…

***The family staples basket (canasta básica) is the group of foods and products of basic necessity that are assigned to each person monthly in Cuba. The distribution is controlled through a ration book (libreta) which lists the items the person may buy at highly subsidized prices.  Though the quotas never meet the minimum needs of families, there are some people who live exclusively off what they are allocated in their ration book.

***Teleclases (televised classes) is an experiment that seeks to substitute the presence of a teacher in the classroom.  Though such classes have not achieved the desired result they have insisted on maintaining them. These classes consist of a teacher speaking on television while images and texts are displayed as support.