The Havana Film Festival: Missing Subtitles and the Domino Effect

Yenisel Rodriguez Pérez

The Yara movie theater.  Photo: Juan Suarez
The Yara movie theater. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Many of the films screened at the recently concluded Havana Film Festival had subtitle issues.

The night of December 6 was one of the worst in this sense. Many spectators were unable to enter two of the most important movie theaters on Havana’s popular 23 street.

Five minutes before the last showing began at the Yara theater, the manager of the theater told the public (who had been standing outside under an intense drizzle) that the film was only available in English, without subtitles.

Nearly 150 people saw their plans to see a film razed to the ground. Despite this, no apologies were offered by the cinema employees and no additional information was given those in line.

A film available only in English, for a Spanish speaking audience at a “Latin American” film festival, in a context where mastery of the English language and bilingualism, in general terms, is quite reduced.

The last film screenings were about to start. Many of those who had gone to the Yara then headed to La Rampa, less than 300 meters downhill from there.

There, the public was met with something unthinkable. Despite having waited half an hour under the same drizzle, next to a dozen other people, denied entrance to the theater, the same thing happened: they were told there were problems with the subtitling. In this case, at least, employees at La Rampa tried to solve the issue.

We would have to ask those who had the courage – and good health – to wait under the rain, with no information to go on, whether they were able to finally see the movie or not.

Situations like these heighten the sense we have had for years, that these venues of Cuba’s most important film festival, and society in general, are in frank decline.

Like the falling domino pieces in the Domino Day shows staged in the Netherlands, Cubans are witnessed a show where the collapse of real socialism, through a domino effect, spreads across all aspects of our daily life, taking everything in its path with it.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.