The Message from Hollywood

By Osmel Almaguer

Photo: Vlastula
Photo: Vlastula

The murderer had her cornered, as hope for escape dwindled slowly.

I witnessed this nail-biting trauma, lounged back watching it in my living room armchair. It was one of those Saturday nights in which the week’s fatigue had anchored me to the house and TV.

Fortunately, the sheer panic of that woman on the brink of a horrifying death is a situation quite distant from what happens here in today’s Cuba. However, we routinely and almost unconsciously expose ourselves to an assailant that is much more subtle-but equally dangerous.

The slasher that I previously referred to resembles many other films coming out of the grand film empire that Hollywood, Calif. represents. It is part of a formula that repeats itself methodically: the main character, usually an easygoing guy, going through a chain of incidents is forced to expose his violent side, most often to defend his life against some evildoer.

I have experienced moments when, sickened by the violence in one of these movies, I’ve turned the channel only to find virtually the same scene on all stations.

Our constitution, policy and efforts have advanced over these last fifty years to succeed in defending the ethical and aesthetic values of a humanist nature.

However, Hollywood’s machinery is not so virtuous. Millions of subliminal messages penetrate the subconscious of people, conditioning their attitudes and behaviors. A great part of the responsibility for the current state of the world’s conscience lies with the cultural superstore located in laid back and alluring Beverly Hills.

It’s counterproductive that we flood our own television with this virus of senseless violence, crass selfishness and a slew of other banalities. This produces a tension within our people’s collective psyche, a dual tendency of acceptance and rejection.

Over the last few years, we have begun to notice behavior that imitates these absurd situations and characters on US television. In a few years, we might not be surprised to see the emergence of serial killers, psychopaths and bank robbers on our streets.

World cinema has a magnificent heritage in countries like Iran, Korea, China, France and Brazil, to mention only a few. They maintain solid schools of cinematographic art in which creativity and reflection prevail.

However, the global economic crisis is making it more evident that the limitless power of imperial interests is aimed at not only controlling politics and markets, but the minds of people as well.

Because of that, as well as the obvious difficulties of our providing quality programming, we must find different ways to promote thematic diversity in audiovisual and film creations that are in agreement with our true needs.

There have been times when we eliminated elements that we superficially related to an enemy ideology, such as when we banned jukeboxes and pool halls after 1959. Later, assuming an erroneously moralistic stance, we censored sexually explicit scenes in movies.

Nevertheless, confronted by this particularly indistinct yet threatening form of aggression, we have resigned ourselves to impassivity. Blood on the screen, over-sexed human bodies, and messages of self-indulgence come before enriching dialogue or thought-provoking dilemmas.

Faced with the panorama, we now have movie programs in which producers have demonstrated conscience, such as the weekly film presentations on Critical Spectator, The Seventh Door, Art Film and 20th Century Theater, among others that have defended education and good art. However, these are not enough. It is necessary to get to the root of the problem and to formulate a new policy toward it, even if this implies fewer films on TV.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

2 thoughts on “<em>The Message from Hollywood </em>

  • The socialist countries have yet to reach that “critical mass” in their collective cinema which is required to surpass the “prestige” that the likes of Hollywood still undeservedly holds in the minds of billions. But I think that this present World crisis we are undergoing is actually the time we have long been waiting for — when that hegemony will be finally neutralized. For good and ever.

    So hang in there, people — and keep churning out quality art. And start working with the likes of Venezuela’s new “Cinema City”, for instance, OK..?

  • Although there many good films, they are little known compared to the blockbusters of the major Hollywood production companies. Up here the situation is partially rectified by the Independent Film Channel (on satellite/cable), as well as several of the “classic” film channels (Turner Classic Films, Fox Film Channel, etc. LinkTV, etc.). Until maybe twenty years ago in each city with any sort of an intellectual reputation there were several “art house ” cinemas which specialized in quality–often foreign–films, but f these have virtually disappeared. Now, most folks rent these films, order them via the net, or purchase DVD’s. The collective experience of viewing the film at the same film with hundreds of others in a theatre is lost, however, and this adds to our isolation and alienation.
    During a trip to Cuba with my family five years ago we happened to see on of these idiotic, super-violent, Hollywood films on the ViAzul bus from Santiago to Habana. It was a Steven Segal vehicle, “Marked for Death.” Within the film’s first fifteen minutes there was all sorts of gratuitous violence. Finally, my (then 12-year old) daughter and I started a contest of counting how many characters met violent ends. After fifteen minutes, however, we both lost count and lost interest. Suddenly, we realized that here we were, for a very limited time, in Cuba, yet we were watching some trashy video! Immediately, we turned our attention to the far more interesting scenes rolling past our coach, as is made its way from Palma Soriano, Contramaestre, Bayamo and Holguin towards Habana.
    In the end, along with Socrates and Plato, I too believe that the polis must take a strong hand shaping what sort of art (poetry and drama in classic Greece; films, videos, tv, etc. today) its citizens are exposed to. Who decides what gets seen and what does not? In the U.S.A. these decisisions are now made by corporate execs, who usually play to the lowest common denominator. In “The Republic,” of course, it will be “The Guardians!”

Comments are closed.