Youth Film Exhibition in Cuba Once Again Clouded in Controversy

Assembly convened to address the pending issue of “freedom of creation.”

By IPS Cuba

The documentary Sueños al Pairo focuses on the life and work of the outstanding Cuban composer and guitarist Mike Porcel, who lives in the United States.  Photo: Taken from Mike Porcel’s Facebook

HAVANA TIMES – Controversies, tensions and acts of censorship gravitate again on the Youth Filmmakers Exhibition that was postponed due to disagreements between the authorities of the state-run Cuban Institute of Art of Cinematographic Industry (Icaic) and the Board of organizers of the event.

The last statement from the organizing committee made the last week, invites “to the realization of a broad Assembly with the participation of the guild and cultural institutions that feel responsible for the future of Cuban cinema, (…) in a respectful climate that allows freedom of criteria, and from which a truly viable project can emerge ”.

The Icaic Youth Film Exhibition is going through a crisis in its complicated relationship with the Film Institute, after numerous directors withdrew their works from the official selection of the 19th edition, initially scheduled from April 7 to 12 in Havana, in solidarity for the exclusion of the documentary “Sueños al pairo.”

Co-directed by filmmakers José Luis Aparicio Ferrera and Fernando Fraguela Fosado, the audiovisual focuses on the life and work of the outstanding Cuban composer and guitarist Mike Porcel (Havana, 1950), co-founder and musical director of the Síntesis group and member of the Nueva Trova movement.

Porcel was expelled from this movement after an unsuccessful attempt to leave the country in 1980, during the exodus through the port of Mariel, west of Havana. Finally, he was able to emigrate to Spain in 1989 and currently resides in the United States.

Icaic speaks

On February 28, the leadership of Icaic wrote in a statement that “it does not authorize the inclusion of material of its property in the production and completion” of “Sueños al Pairo”.

Such denial, it said, “does not refer to the exhibition of this in the Young Cinema Show or in any other event or film contest, but to the production and completion of the documentary itself.”

Icaic added that it determined that “the documentary does not have the authorizations and licenses of the owner of the archive images [Icaic], to be presented in national or international exhibition forums.”

“We strictly adhere, in accordance with our legitimate right as the owner of the images included in the documentary, to not authorize the use of these in a montage in which they acquire a contextual sense that we do not share,” the text stressed.

Icaic originally created the Young Filmmakers Exhibition to stimulate the production of young artists “committed to promote the work of new generations of filmmakers, with this or other initiatives focused on that goal.”

The opinion of the organizers

On February 26, when publishing the official selection of the 19th Young Filmmakers Exhibition, the Board of Directors of the contest announced through its Facebook page that the selection in competition included “Sueños al Pairo” but that “the film has been censored by the Presidency of Icaic due to political and ideological differences.”

The organizers said that “this work had participated in the tenth edition of Making Cinema and had the support of the Institute to access the images of its Film Archive. The right to use these images has now been denied to the filmmakers.”

According to the organizers, “after 13 days of dialogue, the censorship of the documentary remained unchanged. Consequently, the works “Umbra” by Daniela Muñoz Barroso, “The love of cockroaches” by Regis Guedes, and “Los cigos” by Carla Valdés León “asked to be removed from the event.”

Hours later, a brief note from the direction of the Icaic communicated the postponement of the Event for a date that “will be announced in due course.”

The decision assured that it sought to “create better conditions for its realization and analyze various work issues in an appropriate environment and with the necessary time.”

Numerous citizens, including filmmakers and critics, showed support to the new filmmakers through social networks and some urged to create a contest independent of the state institution.

Background

Since its birth in 2001, the Youth Filmmakers Exhibition stimulates knowledge and reflection around the audiovisual work of young people, but also the possibility of addressing realities not treated by the Cuban mass media and the state film industry.

In addition to the works and projects competing in the contest, it includes informative samples of international cinema, conferences and seminars, as well as workshops with important filmmakers.

It stands out for being the only festival in Cuba that once a year brings together emerging and independent filmmakers to provide them with opportunities to make their audiovisual work visible.

However, the lack of a film law keeps unresolved some related issues between the booming film production of the new filmmakers and the outdated traditional policies and modes of production of the state agency.

Works censored in the past

The event has been marked by numerous tensions over the years, many of them related to censorship of works in competition.

In 2004, Ian Padrón’s “Fuera de Liga” documentary was at the last minute separated from the contest, although it was included five years later in the 8th Exhibition, where it won the Special Jury Prize.

Likewise, “Revolution” (Mayckel Pedrero, 2009) and “Despertar” (Ricardo Figueredo and Anthony Bubaire, 2011) were eliminated. The censorship of Despertar led the director of the Exhibition, Fernando Perez, a National Cinema Prize award, to resign over discrepancies with the direction of the Icaic.

During the 17th edition, “Quiero hacer una película” (I want to make a film), a fiction movie by the new filmmaker Yimit Ramírez, was canceled from the Film Opening section, because it allegedly disrespected the National Hero Jose Marti (1853-1895).


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