HAVANA TIMES — “Sincerity Is Not to Be Feared” is the title of a declaration issued by a group of 12 Cuban filmmakers that is currently being circulated via email on the island.
In it, personalities like director Fernando Perez and screenwriters Arturo Arango and Senel Paz condemn the banning of the film Regreso a Itaca (“Return to Ithaca”) during the recently concluded 36th Havana Film Festival.
According to the declaration, “the organizing committee of the Havana Film Festival was forced to withdraw French director Laurent Cantet’s Regreso a Itaca on direct instructions from top officials of Ministry of Culture and Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC).”
A single screening of Regreso a Itaca at the Charles Chaplin theater had been scheduled for December 12 as part of festival showings, but the film was never screened.
Based on a script written by Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura and inspired by his book La novela de mi vida (“My Life’s Novel”), the film centers on five friends who reunite to celebrate the return of Amadeo, who has spent sixteen years living in exile.
“The film could only have been made now, not before. It is very important that Cuban audiences get a chance to see the film, because it’s the first time these kinds of things can be said on screen. Times are changing,” Cantet declared during an interview held in September of this year, a couple months before receiving the news that his film would not be screened during the country’s most important film event.
The five friends, portrayed by Isabel Santos, Jorge Perugorria, Fernando Hechavarria, Nestor Jimenez and Pedro Julio Diaz Ferran spend hours on a rooftop terrace in Havana reminiscing about their youth and drawing a balance between their past hopes and present disillusionment.
“Regreso a Itaca,” the declaration adds, “was filmed in Cuba under the auspices of ICAIC. This makes its banning all the more serious and calls into question the responsibility and professionalism of Ministry of Culture officials. Censorship within the revolution has never had positive results.”
In addition to addressing issues that are sensitive for most Cubans, affected in different ways by migratory dilemmas, the film has already received a number of awards, such as the Giornate degli Autori award at the Venice Film Festival and the Premio Abrazo for best film at the 23rd Biarritz Latin American Film Festival held this past October. The director also received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his film La Clase (“The Class”) in 2008.
The artists who signed the declaration are also part of the so called G-20, a group of filmmakers who are holding debates with ICAIC and Ministry of Culture authorities to have a Film Law passed and change the organizational conditions that govern film production in the country.
The protest also levels criticisms at the Cuban Association of Writers and Artists (UNEAC): “UNEAC and other institutions lack a commitment to the real problems of culture and the concerns that artists have as part of the people they create for, and they are absent from areas of conflict that are affecting, through misunderstandings and the lack of true dialogue, the relationships between artists and the country’s leadership.”
These kinds of public declarations, critical of the policies of Cuba’s cultural institutions, has not been a traditional method employed by high-ranking artists.
In the days to come, authorities in the sector will be able to expose their arguments. For the time being, the declaration is a bold condemnation of an act of censorship that will no longer go unnoticed on the island.
Full declaration: Descargar (PDF, 389KB)