HAVANA TIMES, Sept.23 — The president of the “Cinema Plaza” film festival, Aries Morales, spoke with HT about this year’s event set for October 20-23. This woman of diverse responsibilities within Cuban culture noted that, “Only with debate and reflection will we be able to constantly improve; in this way we’ll someday succeed at making this the country that we dream of.”
HT: As president of one of the most followed events in the Cuban film world, the one known as “Cine Plaza,” what opinions can you share with us concerning the evolution of this festival over its last editions.
Aries Morales: Cine Plaza is one of the cultural traditions in the Cuban world of film that cannot be lost. This is why when the Municipal Office of Cultura in the downtown Plaza municipality invited me to organize this event, I couldn’t refuse. This is the second occasion in which I have committed myself to carrying it out, and I consider it with great honor because other specialists and professionals have worked on this, putting all of their love and effort into its realization so that over these years the festival has become a traditional film event.
At the beginning this was a gathering of directors affiliated with the Cine Clubs de Cuba. And among them there is really one name that I cannot stop mentioning, that of cinema director Tomas Piard, who with his enthusiasm began those meetings and turned them into what this event is today.
For me it’s impossible to make a list of people connected to the realization of these 26 previous editions, but it’s necessary to also mention Conchita Cala, who was president for years. I can tell you that the permanency of Cinema Plaza implies a tremendous effort of perseverance and realization; it is an effort at survival led by the organizers and the directors. Because of them it has survived.
HT: The festival of “Cine y Video Plaza” is competitive, specifically what are the awards for?
AM: Cine Plaza is proposed to increasingly get closer to the showing of materials that narrate, depict and debate the interests and conflicts of Cuban men and women – of the Cuban family. I think that the only way for its survival, as well as the importance that could give it permanency, is that it serves as the space for reflecting life, conflicts, anguish and stress on the family and on Cuban communities.
Exactly for being convened by a Casa de Cultura [a neighborhood cultural center], at the municipality level, I think that this is consistent with this task within the universe of Cuban culture. Of course the most important thing is defending the quality of the films that are presented, but we’re considering that on this occasion — the 27th edition — to especially feature the community sense embodied within diversity itself and its reflection in film presentations.
HT: This has led to the characterization of “Cinema Plaza” as a space where audiovisual materials are admitted that could be censored in other contexts. This has been a controversial point of the event, but one which at the same time allows a wider language of expression for the participating directors.
AM: I don’t believe that this involves censored materials or the censorship of some issues. What is implied or what makes this event different I think is the freedom of participation, the fact that its convocation is more open in terms of professional/non-professional engagement and the ages of the directors. This makes it less closed, and because of that it’s more accessible.
I think there’s no issue or subject matter that can’t be dealt with by the artists, intellectuals, males or females; on the contrary, only with debate and reflection will we be able to constantly improve; in this way we’ll someday succeed at making this the country that we dream. It’s not a competition with others, it’s not gratuitous irreverence and it’s not fake opportunism. I think, like I said earlier, it’s a gathering of directors and thinkers around an issue, us, in our communities – that’s what Cine Plaza should be about.
HT: Only for Cuban directors?
AM: Only for filmmakers who live in Cuba and who create films about us. This is an indispensable requirement. It’s a municipal festival with a national scope, as long as one stays within these parameters the difference will be marked, that is its essence.
HT: What dates are scheduled this year for the festival’s activities, and what new features will we see in this 2011 edition?
AM: The festival will be held from October 20 to 23. The event is held every two years, which is why I’m hoping that this interview will at the same time serve notice. In this “Year of People of African Descent,” as it has been declared by UNESCO, the festival will be dedicated to an outstanding figure: Luis Carbonell. We think this is only fair since he is a true teacher, a true monument to our national culture. We owe part of the redefinition of our identity to him.
HT: In addition to presiding over the festival, you are a woman of the island’s cultural world. To cite one example, previously you were a theater professor.
AM: You do me a great honor in saying that. I’d had never thought of it like that, but in fact this year I will mark 45 years of having worked and labored in the field of culture in my country. I began at 17 as a musician on the radio, at a station that doesn’t exist anymore: Radio Liberation.
That’s when I began this long career in which I have been the directing assistant in a theater studio and a theater instructor at the Casa de Cultura Plaza (from there I got my sense of belonging to this institution, in fact I’m one of its founders). I also have a long track record of 27 years as an instructor and artistic director of special shows.
Later on I went back into radio and television, then as a programming consultant. At first I was at Radio Ciudad de la Habana and later I wrote for children’s programs on TV. Among others I remember a beautiful program that I especially loved: “Pocholo y su Pandilla (Pocholo and His Gang). Later I got involved in writing for dramas.
HT: Concerning your experience in directing the program “Teatro en Television,” what can you tell us about that?
AM: The program “Teatro en Television” always had a large television audience. In fact many people still ask me why it went off the air. It was a very difficult program that required a large budget for its production. It involved the adaptation to television of Cuban and international literary theatrical works. We’re talking about programs that were an hour and a half long, which is to say lengthy works of fiction in terms of audiovisual work.
This program, in which I was its main adviser for five years, would have fourteen plays aired in its annual season, all of high quality with excellent directors, technicians, actors and designers. It was a really rigorous program and too complex for our current economic conditions.
On it were works like “Andoba,” “La Casa de Bernalda Alba,” “La Espera,” “Casa de Muñecas,” “Requiem por Yarini” and others. Imagine – there were five long years of premieres. They should really consider rerunning some of those productions on Cuban television.
HT: The Nicolas Guillen Foundation, an institution dedicated to preserving and promoting the work of Cuba’s national poet, was another of your responsibilities.
AM: Let’s just say that it’s an institution for which I have a great love, and that it has been the gift of my adult professional life. I consider the work of Nicolas Guillen, this immense poet, this indispensable person of Cuban culture, a summary of our identity, spirit and essence of what we men and women of Cuba are.
There I’ve undertaken multiple jobs and I’ve grown even more so as a person and as a researcher. The poet’s work reaches all aspects of Cuban culture. The Nicolas Guillen Foundation proposes a noble and comprehensive goal for the public in its aim of promoting the poet’s work and thought.
The foundation organized cultural and academic events in addition to undertaking research and community work in which I involved myself with all my passion. In fact I developed the “Grupo de Creacion Poetica,” which I founded fourteen years ago, and still I do its promotion. We meet every Thursday at 5:00 in the afternoon in the Nicolas Guillen room of UNEAC (the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). A countless number of poets and people in different professions and from various neighborhoods of the city have passed through there, without distinction of age, sex or race. They come to share with us their work and their concerns. In this space I’ve grown a great deal as a person and an intellectual. I’m very proud of it.
HT: Your daughter is one of the recognized actresses in Cuban cinema. We remember her leading role in the controversial film “90 millas” (90 miles), which dealt with the issue of Cuban emigration to the United States.
AM: Children have been the most beautiful part of my life. I have three beautiful children, professionals, of which I’m very proud. I also have five grandchildren – three granddaughters and two grandsons, who I adore.
Claudia Rojas is the actress that you mentioned. She’s the oldest of my three children. She’s a beautiful woman and an excellent actress who in addition to 90 Millas (a film for which she had the honor of being awarded in Huelva, Spain, she has put in intense work on improving and growing as a person and as an artist since her first movie; that was where she had the honor of working with the great director Fernando Perez in La Vida es Silbar, in which she played the role of a classical ballerina.
That was an impressive challenge since she was a graduate in contemporary dance and later graduated in acting in Mexico. So this character, in addition to the performance, implied the risk of classical dance. For this she won the award for best new sensation at the International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema of Havana (Havana Film Festival).
This indicated what path she should follow in film, which she subsequently pursued. Among her films I can’t overlook mentioning the movie filmed in Madrid and directed by Fernando Merinero: La Novia de Lazaro. In this she was awarded as best actress at the Malaga International Film Festival and the award for Popularity at the Gibara Festival of Low-Budget Cinema.
Currently she’s immersed in the realization of a series of individual stories that she’s directing. I think that these are going to unfold as strong personal audiovisual works.
My daughter Mariana Rojas is an excellent swimming teacher who emigrated many years ago. She’s also a very interesting painter and a beautiful mom.
My youngest child is Pablo Calzado, a drummer and percussionist, especially of jazz. He worked several years with the Group Mezcla and in Pasaje Abierto with Alexis Bosch. Right now he’s a teacher and an instrumentalist in Singapore. Thanks to him I have another beautiful little granddaughter.
HT: And the desires and concerns of Aries Morales?
AM: My desires are simple. To the degree in which we grow, pass through life and pursue our dreams, desires and concerns become more and more simple. Firstly, I want to maintain my health and the energy to continue working in the area of our culture, as I’ve done up until today. Likewise, I would love to see my grandsons and granddaughters grow up, to see my children who I adore get older, and to keep my friends. In short, I love life and I would love to continue living it.