NATIONAL IDENTITY ANDDIALECTICAL CINEMA
Many notable fiction films, too, were completed during the exciting first decade under the ICAIC, forming the basis for a "Nuevo Cine Cubano," or "New Cuban Cinema." Among these were Alea's La Muerte de un burócrata ( Death of a Bureaucrat , 1966) and Memorias del subdesarrollo ( Memories of Underdevelopment , 1968). Death of a Bureaucrat firmly established the Cuban audience's penchant for social satire. Outsiders are often surprised to see the extent to which state-sponsored films such as Death of a Bureaucrat openly address the idiosyncrasies of the system, but in fact this tendency, exemplified by Alea's often imitated films, defines one central tendency of Cuba's national cinema. Memories of Underdevelopment , on the other hand, shows an entirely different aspect of Alea's range, being an example of dialectical cinema at its finest. Stylistically and thematically rich, Memories creates the opportunity for elevating political consciousness within the artistic experience, and urges the spectator toward an active, open-ended exchange with the film.
Alea's early films and the others made by ICAIC largely explored issues of Cuban national identity, the colonial legacy, and the new revolutionary agenda, using different formats and genres to do so. During this same period, Humberto Solás (b. 1941) made the classic films Manuela (1966) and Lucia (1968), initiating the trend of using a female protagonist as an allegorical representation of the complex, evolving national identity, and establishing Solás as one of Cuba's original artistic voices. Both films were masterfully edited by Nelson Rodríguez(b. 1938), one of Cuba's great editing talents. Rodríguez's filmography demonstrates the extent to which he has been an integral part of Cuban cinema since the revolution, working on many if not most of the outstanding films produced to date. Solás's strategy of using a marginalized character to represent the progressive national agenda was later taken up by other Cuban directors, including Retrato de Teresa ( Portrait of Teresa , 1979) by Pastor Vega (1940–2005), Hasta cierta punto ( Up to a Certain Point , 1983) by Alea, and De cierta manera ( One Way or Another , 1974) by Sara Gómez (1943–1974).
Also within this extraordinary first decade, both La Primera carga al machete ( The First Charge of the Machete , 1969), by Manuel Octavio Gómez (1934–1988), and García Espinosa's Las Aventuras de Juan Quin Quin ( The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin , 1967) dealt with issues of history and identity, using innovative stylistic formats in an overt refusal to conform to established genres or traditional means of narration. Such nonlinear narratives require a different kind of attention and participation on the part of the audience, demonstrating the ethos of experimentation that was integral to postrevolutionary Cuban cinema from the very beginning.
The period that followed the euphoric 1960s has become known as the "five gray years," during which time Cuban art was produced in an atmosphere of ideological conformity. In spite of the climate of the times, many exceptional historical dramas appeared during this period, including Una Pelea cubana contra los demonios ( A Cuban Fight Against Demons , 1972) and La Última cena ( The Last Supper , 1976) by Alea; Los Días de agua ( Days of Water , 1971) by Gómez; Páginas del diario de José Martí by José Massip; and El Otro Francisco ( The Other Francisco , 1975) and Maluala (1979), both by Sergio Giral (b. 1937).
During the same period, Julio García Espinosa wrote the essay "Por Un Cine imperfecto" ("For an Imperfect Cinema"), which called the technical perfection of Hollywood cinema a false goal and urged Third World filmmakers to focus instead on making films that actively require the engagement of the audience in constructing and shaping social reality. The essay had considerable influence, and remains one of the most important theoretical tracts written by a Latin American filmmaker. In 1974 one of the ICAIC's few female directors, Sara Gómez, made the film that is most emblematic of this period. De cierta manera ( One Way or Another ) isaradically innovative film that merges fiction and documentary strategies in addressing a wide range of pressing social issues (machismo, the revolution, marginality, social change) with sensitivity and depth. The film is a polemical dialogue between the two main characters that reflects tensions in the larger society. One Way or Another , which was completed by collaborators Alea and García Espinosa after Gómez's untimely death during production, has earned a well-deserved place in the canon of feminist film and has been the subject of international scholarship.
Two years after the Family Code sought to address the ingrained issue of machismo in Cuban society by urging a new level of male participation in child rearing, and during a period in which Cuban women were being encouraged to enter the workforce, Pastor Vega made the controversial film Retrato de Teresa ( Portrait of Teresa , 1979). The film tackles the issues of women working outside the home and the double standards for men and women, among other highly sensitive topics, and it sparked widespread local debate, demonstrating that feminist ideals were far from fully integrated into Cuban society and ensuring that the reactionary legacy of machismo would continue to occupy the revolutionary agenda. Later the same year the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema was inaugurated in Havana. The festival remains of one Cuba's defining annual cultural events and one of Latin America's major film festivals, providing a venue for exchange and dialogue and allowing many outsiders to see Cuba and Cuban cinema for themselves.
The 1980s marked a shift away from the complex films García Espinosa had envisioned in his essay on "imperfect cinema" and a general movement toward using more accessible and popular film forms. ICAIC's production was diverse, featuring a wide range of contemporary dramas, social satires, historical dramas, and genre films. A new and talented group of Cuban filmmakers emerged during this time, but for many, the explosive creativity and artistic merit of the first decade of production under ICAIC was lacking in Cuban film in the 1980s. One of several obvious exceptions, the full-length animated film ¡Vampiros en la Habana! ( Vampires in Havana , 1985), directed by Juan Padrón (b. 1947), was a celebrated success. padrón had captured the popular imagination in 1979 with the animated feature Elpidio Valdés , a vehicle for his
In 1985 the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV, International School of Film and Television) was founded with support from the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, and the Argentine director Fernando Birri (b. 1925), a pioneer in the New Latin American Cinema, was installed as its first director. The school, under the direction of Julio García Espinosa, features a distinguished international faculty and students who come to Cuba from all over the world to participate in workshops and diploma programs with such luminaries as the Colombian writer Gabriel García Marquez (b. 1928) and the US filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (b. 1939), among many others.