Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The last month of the year is nearing and, in addition to the shy Cuban winter, people are looking forward to the Havana Film Festival. From December 4 to 14, the streets of Havana will again feel the revelry of a public hungry for the most recent films of our continent and the rest of the world.

This, the 36th Havana Film Festival, is dedicated to Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a passionate supporter of the festival since the very beginning, and president of the New Latin American Cinema Foundation as of the mid-1980s. Several documentaries related to his life and work, including Luis Fernando “Pacho” Bottia’s Buscando a Gabo (“Looking for Gabo”, Colombia), Yves Billon and Mauricio Martinez-Cavard’s La escritura embrujada (“Haunted Writings”, Colombia-France-Italy), and Holly Aylett’s Tales Beyond Solitude – Cien Años de Soledad (USA), will be screened as tribute to the late writer.

Argentina, Brazil and Cuba – which will be screening five new releases this year-, are among the countries with the most films this festival. The traditional international screenings will include independent films from the United States, Spain, Germany, Japan (animation) and experimental African-American pieces.

As in previous years, several art exhibitions will be held during the days of the festival. La vuelta al cine en 35 carteles (“Around Cinema with 35 Posters”), a retrospective exhibition of film posters by Rafael Morante, and Historia de un Harakiri (“The Story of a Harakiri”), a joint exhibition in honor of fifty years since the creation of the poster for Masaki Kobayashi’s film Harakiri by Cuban designer Antonio Fernandez Reboiro, are some art showings audiences will be treated to.

The festival will also pay tribute to Uruguayan and Austrian filmmakers Mario Handler and Ulrich Seidl and hold a retrospective screening of the works of US filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, Haitian Raoul Peck and Argentinean Jorge Cedron.

The movie theaters where festival films are screened are already known by audiences, but there are some noteworthy news in this connection this year. The Payret cinema is still closed for repairs, such that the children’s cinema Cinecito will hold a number of screenings for adults. The Teatro America will alternate its live shows with film screenings three times a week during the festival.

The family, the growth of children, adolescence and loneliness are some of the issues to be addressed by this year’s festival. An important seminar on television series, where experts will analyze why some are so popular, will be one of the conferences to be held during the festival.

It has already been announced that Argentinean filmmaker Damian Szifron’s Relatos Salvages (“Savage Tales”), which has just won the audience’s award at the Biarritz Festival – has been chosen to open the Havana Film Festival.

People are wondering whether French filmmaker Vincent Cantet’s Return to Ithaca will be screened at the festival. The film, with a script with Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura, was awarded the jury award at Biarritz and received acknowledgements at the Venice Film Festival. Based on a passage from Padura’s La novela de mi vida (“My Life’s Novel”), the film recreates the life of a man who returns to Cuba after 16 years in exile.

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