HAVANA TIMES — Marcos Menendez competed at last week’s New Filmmakers Festival with his fourth piece, a short, animated film completed in 2014 titled Un dia mas (“Another Day”). The animation, winner of the Latinoamerica en Corto Award at Madrid’s 13th Notodofilmfest Short Film Festival, tells the story of Manolo, a man mired in a daily, alienating routine. In 2011, Menendez had already received a special mention at the festival for his piece Lluvia de estrellas (“Raining Stars”).
Sitting on the steps of Havana’s Chaplin Cinema, shielded from the intense sun, Marcos tells me he works as an editor at a TV broadcaster in the province of Las Tunas, and that he is a self-taught filmmaker. Smiling, he agreed to answer some questions regarding his impressions of the festival.
HT: Is this the first time you participate in the festival?
Marcos: No, I’ve particiated several times. In 2010, I presented a stop-motion animation short titled Hora de almorzar (“Lunch Time”). I presented La prision (“The Prison”), Lluvia de estrellas (“Raining Stars”) and Bienvenido al cielo (“Welcome to Heaven”) in the next three festivals. I didn’t participate last year.
HT: How much work do you go through to make your films?
Marcos: Quite a lot, though the New Filmmakers Festival opened a door for me. When I submitted a piece for the first time, for the 9th festival, I found out about the workshops, the debates held at the Moviendo ideas (“Moving Ideas”) panels and the fact your work is shown in a cinema. This commits you to your work, and it gives you a sense of direction also. You get to see many of things that young people like you are doing in Cuba and other countries. In my case, it helped improve myself, inspiring me to read a lot and try different things. The work one does is a kind of workshop, a constant search to improve oneself. This is my fourth piece. I don’t believe it’s the best out there, but there it is.
HT: I’ve heard good things about it.
Marcos: Well, it’s already been around. It’s been shown at festivals in Argentina and Colombia, and it obtained an award in Spain. That’s why there are certain expectations about, but I don’t think it will receive an award at the festival here…I don’t know. Awards are a bit complicated.
HT: How is the festival important, beyond your personal experiences?
Marcos: This is the only festival where filmmakers from any province in the country can participate and see their films screened in a movie theater. The best cinema in Cuba is the Chaplin, and seeing your work here, in front of an audience…that is the aim of any filmmaker, having their work screened so that people can see it. You have the Internet, true, and you can upload your film, but then people see it at home, in their computers, usually alone. The magic of the dark movie theater doesn’t compare to anything. That is the most important thing this festival offers. Then you have the debates and talks with the filmmakers, the debates held through the Moviendo ideas workshop I already mentioned. All of this is very rewarding for filmmakers, it helps them develop.
The festival has also moved out of Havana on previous occasions. If memory serves me right, I had the opportunity to take part in a nationwide tour in 2012. It hasn’t been done again, but I think that’s one idea that ought to be brought back. I would have to look into it, because I’m not sure right now whether it’s something they do every two or three years and that’s why I haven’t heard about it again, I’m not too sure, but I thought the tour was great – it was like a crusade of filmmakers and their work. There, I had a chance to converse with Carlos, who works at Television Serrana, the author of documentaries of the stature of Bohio (“Hovel”), and Ana Alpizar, a young filmmaker from Havana. We went to several places: Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Guantanamo, Granma, presenting our work and those of others, for we would screen a retrospective of the festival where pieces by several filmmakers were shown. It was sometimes embarrassing because there wasn’t much of an audience, but it wasn’t always the case. In Holguin, for instance, the theater was full. Quite a number of people attended in Guantanamo. I believe we should continue to do that, filmmakers would sincerely commit to such initiatives.
HT: Your suggestion, in other words, is for the festival to last more than a few days.
Marcos: Of course, to have it on a continuous basis, and for works to be uploaded to the Internet. Why doesn’t the festival have a YouTube or Vimeo channel? No one understands why not, and it’s something feasible. The festival needs to have more visibility. That nationwide tour should be promoted more broadly.
HT: There are permanent showings at the Cinematheque, but not many people go to see them.
Marcos: Yes, every Friday. The thing is, they publicize these screenings through the Internet, and very few people have access to the Internet. They need to do so on the radio and TV also.
HT: What’s it like to make animated films in Puerto Padre?
Marcos: It would be the same if I made them here, making the film isn’t the problem. It’s like having access to the Internet but not having a Facebook account. You don’t exist. It’s the same situation if you live in Cuba but don’t come down to Havana. If it wasn’t for the festival, I wouldn’t exist as a filmmaker either.
Note: This interview took place on Thursday April 2; the awards ceremony took place on Sunday, April 5, and Marcos won the prize for animation.