Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 8 April 2017 – Were the events like the books
tell us? Is the official story a report of what really happened? The
attempt to answer these questions inspires the documentary and two
fictional shorts that were presented Wednesday in the 'Moving Ideas'
section of the 16th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition of the
Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) in Havana.
Under the motto "Forgetting does not exist," the filmmakers approached
collective and family memory to show a point of view often ignored by
the epic of Revolutionary discourse. The works probe those memories for
what Cubans treasure about moments in national life, beyond the
gilded frame that the institutional version attaches to them.
Economic disasters, a war on a distant continent and the drama of family
separation after exile, were some of the issues addressed by this new
generation of film directors, who show a special interest in looking
back. Children of indoctrination and official silence seem willing to
shed light on the darker areas of what has happened in the last half
Director Pedro Luis Rodríguez offers the short Personal Report set on
the eve of the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 — when all remaining
private businesses in the country were confiscated, down to the last
shoeshine boy. It was a watershed moment in the economic life of the
nation that brought profound effects on commerce, supply and even the
mentality of those born after that massive closure of private businesses.
In less than half an hour, Rodríguez shows the conflicts experienced by
Ricardo, an analyst on the Planning Board, who is preparing to present a
report to his boss on the consequences of the measure that is about to
be taken. The protagonist defends his right to participate in the
decisions that are made in the country or at least to be heard, but
everything is in vain.
Personal Report presents that look from below on a historical event
where the decision was taken "on high." An offensive about which the
government has never offered a public self-criticism, although a quarter
of a century later the private sector was again authorized to
operate. Today, more than half a million workers are struggling to
support themselves despite strong legal limits on their activities and
In the discussions with the audience after the screening in the Chaplin
room, Rodriguez acknowledged that his film is "a wink" at the current
phenomenon of self-employment. His desire is that the work serves to
"reflect on this present" and to meditate "on participation and the need
to be heard and to be consistent with oneself."
The flood of memories and questioning continued with the fictional
short Taxi, directed by Luis Orlando Torres. Taxi addresses another of
the many themes barely touched on by the fiery speeches from those in
power: Cuba's involvement in the war in Angola and its aftermath in
society; the plot centers on the physical and mental wounds left by that
conflict outside the island's borders.
Torres focuses on the effects on families and establishes a parallel
with the internationalist medical missions that now send Cuban
healthcare workers around the world, and their consequences here at
home. The film develops a suspense story that begins when a taxi driver
picks up a passenger in a seemingly casual way. A brief conversation
will suffice to call into question moral aspects of a war, one which the
Government has always defended as an act of solidarity.
Meanwhile, The Son of the Dream, directed by Alejandro Alonso and filmed
in 16 millimeter with a Bolex camera, relives through family letters and
postcards the filmmaker's memories of an uncle whom he was unable
to know due to the separation caused by the Mariel Boatlift. The
material is the result of a workshop given at the International Film
School of San Antonio de los Baños by Canadian director Philip Hoffman.
Beyond the aesthetic and artistic values of each of the projects
presented in 'Moving Ideas', it is clear that much of the young cinema
that is being produced on the Island is not trying to please
institutions or accept pre-established truths. It is an uncomfortable,
irreverent, questioning and willing movement to belie an epic story that
has been shaped more with silences than with truths.
Source: Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History – Translating