Havana, November 2013 – Movie and game rooms created by the private sector to stave off boredom is a sample of what can be achieved in a short time with the decentralization of the economy. The government’s recent ban on these recreational activities, shows who is holding back the changes.
What is Cinema: Art? Cultural colonization? Brainwashing? Entertainment?
Most viewers say, when asked, they are looking to be entertained, have fun, let out a few choice words when technology and ingenuity show them something surprising. At least, for many, this is the sine qua non ingredient of “the stupendous reality called cinema,” to quote Ortega y Gasset.
On the other hand there are the the ideal comfort conditions to enjoy a movie. Most respondents mentioned an air conditioned room, comfortable chairs or armchairs, being about to snack or nibble on something while watching the movie. Some want to enjoy a drink at this moment.
These two conditions, a good time and comfort, are met in the private 3D moving rooms serving the public, although they don’t have a license to practice the activity.
Although Fernando Rojas, the Deputy Minister of Culture said on 27 October that they did not intend to prohibit this type of activity, but to regulate it, the fact is that the Cuban 3D movie room owners woke on 2 November to find their exhibitions prohibited.
“The exhibition of films, which includes 3D rooms and computer games, have never been authorized and this type of self-employment activity will cease immediately,” read the information note published by the official organ of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party on Saturday, 2 November.
The owners of such rooms, such as Ronny in Vibora, hoped that the government would grant licenses to legalize them, even if they were supervised by the municipal Ministry of Culture. “I’ve invested thousands of dollars in the business. What am I supposed to do with all this equipment. How can I recover my investment?”
The House of Culture of the 10 de Octobre municipality, had among its plans to contract this type of service as activities for children. But with the new ban no one dares to talk to them about it.
“It wasn’t a bad idea. The kids love the 3D cartoons, the glasses amuse them, and they see their favorite characters in this dimension. If we managed to get some of these 3D owners to set up this kind of exchange, we can bring 3D to more kids who have few chances to go to a private function,” said a cultural promoter from the House of Culture, who preferred to remain anonymous.
The video game business
Less widespread than 3D movies, but gaining customers in parts of the city, is the video game business. The El Maravilla Technopremier, a complex technology for the self-employes, on 10 de Octubre avenue, between San Francisco and Concepcion, offers a variety of IT services, such as software installation, hardware repairs, printing and scanning, computer classes, and a modern video arcade that runs 24 hours, allowed us to take photographs, but declined to give statements.
At a price of 20 pesos in national currency per hour, the room has networked computers to play games like Call of Duty, Word of Warcraft, FIFA, and others. It also has Xbox 360 with Kinect (Body Motion Detector) with more than 30 games in this class. Quite a deluxe set compared to what they can offer with the old software and computers at the Youth Computer Clubs.
With the new ban, the kids who currently attend these places, which are more than a few, will have one less place to play the video games they like. They will have to line up again at some Youth Computer Club to access games authorized by the”cultural politics of the government,” such as Gesta Final, a Cuban videogame that recreates the period 1956-1959, when the rebels led by Fidel fought in the hills of the Sierra Maestra.
“At the rate we are going we will have to go underground to see movies or play the games that we like,” said Juan Carlos, a 16-year-old fan of computer games.
For ordinary Cubans, the decision to ban the 3D movies and video game rooms means fewer entertainment options for a people tired of seeing what they force to watch you to see in the cinemas, falling apart from time and ineptitude.
But for the soldiers of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, a Goebbels-inspired institution responsible for ensuring the “purity and quality” of what is displayed or played with the greatest concern being “the final triumph of a mass preference for Hollywood movies that enthrone banality and trashy entertainment.”
Julio Cesar Alvarez
Cubanet, 4 November 2013