HAVANA TIMES – A legal project that has been in the works is about to be launched so as to give independent filmmakers a body of law, according to a statement made by Ramon Samada, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry’s (ICAIC) at a discussion held at the National Association of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) in October.
The most disturbing thing about all of this is that Samada isn’t talking about a Film Law, but is instead saying: “Legal Project”. Meanwhile, the Cuban government has written up Decree-Law 349, which aims to give a legal basis for the persecution of critical thought in Cuba, that’s to say, the State has secured the future punishment of independent filmmakers, before even legitimizing them.
This Decree includes bans on: “the use of patriotic symbols which contravene legislation in force” (Article 3.1.a). Remembering the scandal that was unleashed with the movie Quiero hacer una pelicula, by filmmaker Yimit Ramirez, which also provoked extremist reactions from pro-government officials and journalists because of its allegedly disrespectful (instead of controversial) handling of the character Jose Marti.
On the other hand, there is the ban on the “use of a sexist, pornographic, vulgar and obscene language” (Article 3.d) and “any other [content] which violates legal provisions that regulate the normal progress of our society in terms of culture” (Article 3.1.g). This part can be interpreted in many different ways, thus leaving creators in a completely fragile state, and subject to the opinion of inspectors who oversee the self-employement sector.
The truth is that independent filmmakers have managed to continuously produce works, and even though they have to jump through bureaucratic hurdles, deal with censorship, Cuban film does exist and it does have international exposure, placed among the elite of global cinema, thanks to these productions that are made outside of Cuban state institutions.
Therefore, these filmmakers’ call for a Film Law to be passed should not continue to be ignored, as they have prevailed with talent and exist thanks to their work. They don’t owe the State. The State owes them for not letting Cuban film die out.
My brief experiences at the ICAIC in movies such as La Pared (2006), Proceres (2011), both of which are directed by Alejandro Gil, or Larga Distancia by Esteban Insausti (2010), soon left me disappointed with the arrogant Cuban industry, as I realized that these productions wouldn’t change my life as an actress or as a person because nothing happened with those films in the end.
There may be many reasons for this. Departments and offices are full of unmotivated employees who aren’t being told to work seriously and continuously. A lack of guidance for filmmakers, from the moment their scripts are approved (even they have no idea about the approval process), not giving them a picture of the opportunities their movies might have abroad. This is why just a handful of movies make it past their debut week in the capital’s movie theaters.
However, according to Samada’s announcement (in a top-down dialogue with independent filmmakers), it will be his institution that governs this new legal project, transforming independent filmmakers into tax sources of Cuban cultural policy.