Theater in the Name of Freedom / Lynn Cruz

Screenshots from Patriotismo 36-77

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 1 November 2018 – Like the feeling you have when a baby you’ve been longing to have finally arrives, I was overcome by the same emotion after Patriotismo 36-77 made its debut.

More than half a year went past until it could finally hit the stage. The idea for the play was conceived after I suffered an act of repression for the first time, by the police and State Security in April 2017, when we tried to screen the documentary Nadie by Miguel Coyula at the Casa Galeria El Circulo.

That event marked my life, it made me more responsible for my country’s reality and the need arose to create a dialogue via theater, about the State’s psychological and physical violence towards anyone who openly criticizes them. continue reading

It’s no coincidence that the characters this time are: A critical painter (Luis Trapaga), a Humanities student and daughter of a dissident (Juliana Rabelo) and a human rights activist and daughter of a Communist Party member (played by yours truly).

I wrote the script based on the actors’ real-life experiences. Their fascinating personalities and intelligence took the play to new heights every time we rehearsed it. There is a scene dedicated to a select group of Cuban writers in exile and others in virtual exile on the island, which is based on the creative conversations we had with them.

However, financial hardship became a factor we had to wrestle with and so we launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Spanish website Verkami in late July. A digital platform to collect money. It’s a dynamic which stems from poor communities.

Thanks to many friends and people who identified with the project, we were able to collect our target which has allowed us to pay dignified wages to the actors involved, as well as to finish producing the play.

Not forgetting that it’s in the Cuban government’s DNA to decapitalize, just getting by in Cuba continues to be a precarious task.

On the other hand, the Kairos Theater’s philosophy has been solidified further as a result of Patriotismo 36-77. It won’t be easy-to-watch theater. And every play will have to be born in the spur of the moment.

If we used living rooms in homes as our space for Enemigos del Pueblo, this time and as a way to protest Decree-Law 349, we have sought out a public space.

The city is full of ruins, why don’t we fill these places of rubble with art? Why don’t we give them back a bit of the life they once had?

It’s no easy feat to put on a play with formal ambitions in an unknown place, that is to say, storm it. The conditions we faced at the site of an unfinished Art School forced us to be strategic.

We are dedicating this action to everyone who has died in the name of freedom, whether that’s out of desperation, romanticism or irresponsibility.

Cuban Government Fights Another Unfair Battle Against Artists / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz. Photo by Miguel Coyula

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 7 September 2018 — Even though I have written about the possible causes that led to a decree-law being written up which criminalizes art, and even though I have resisted forming part of an entertainment policy which has made Cubans travel along the tree’s branches instead of going directly to the trunk, I must write again about Law #349.

In my own case, its just about becoming a theater director. In 2011, I started directing with a friend of mine, researcher and anthropologist, Carlos A. Garcia, and I had a group of actors, but the low budget we had meant that instead of putting on a play, it ended up being a monologue.

Now, with my work Patriotismo 36-77, I am able to put on a play that is told by more than one character, played by different actors. continue reading

The foundations of Postdramatic Theater are of particular interest to me, among many other influences, movements and trends. In essence, from all the ideas that I have adopted looking for a language, there is the idea that anyone can become an actor and anywhere can become a stage.

This is why I set out on this journey with visual artist Luis Trapaga, and humanities student Juliana Rebelo joined us later. Both of them have been victims of repression and censorship, which is a key theme in Patriotismo 36-77.

So, when I studied the Stalinist guidebook that has been perversely drawn up against artists, in the so-called reform of a system without a name, I realized that the theater that I want to make isn’t even included in the words in brackets that make up this decree.

That’s to say, I am in a limbo within limbo itself because, among other ambiguities in the text, even when a project isn’t being managed by an institution, you still need authorization to be able to perform your work.

That is to say, you need to be institutionalized. There are no opportunities for independent art. Even when the Council of Performing Arts, which governs theater, has proven itself to be a den for administrative corruption, in spite of the privileges that the institution’s managers already enjoy. However, artists are the criminals here apparently, for being independent quite simply.

An important detail is that in Decree-Law 349, the phrase “services rendered” as well as the word “commercialization” appear over and over again.

Today, persecution of thought in Cuba no longer has anything to do with an ideology, but everything to do with market demands.

As the absolute and totalitarian owner of the Cuban economy, the Cuban government doesn’t want to have any competition.

Independent artists are a threat to state institutions because these survive thanks to them exporting the government’s ideology, which sinks into crisis when outside of these, artists not only enjoy creative freedom but also financial freedom.

I am not interested in having a base for a theater group because my quest isn’t inside a performing space that has been delimited by an institution’s bureaucracy.

The theater that gets my blood running is in the streets. In an old man’s sad face. In a line at a bakery. In the remains of cut-down trees. In Cuban families’ living rooms.

My idea is to continue making mobile theater, which really moves me and steers me towards taking on all of the effort bringing a piece of theater to life entails.

I have just recently finished my creative crowdfunding campaign to get the production money we needed for Patriotismo 36-77. Doing that was a real challenge for me. This is the second time that I have been able to secure funds to create outside of state institutions. Outside of a policy that gives censorship a green light, to crush Cuban intellectual thought.

Note: This post, in English translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

A Creative, Embargo Free Crowdfunding Campaign / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 8 August 2018  — Verkami, a creative crowdfunding platform, has become very popular amongst independent Cuban artists. The reason for this being that the website is Spanish so it doesn’t run the same risks as other platforms, such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, which are from the US and the US Department of the Treasury could freeze these funds at any time because they are related to a project being managed within Cuba, which is what happened to filmmaker Miguel Coyula with his film “Corazon Azul”.

Creating a Crowdfunding campaign is basically what we Cubans call a kitty or collection. People interested in the campaign can make their donations on the website over forty days. We have chosen to create ours on Verkami, to collect the amount we are asking for and to finish producing the play Patriotismo 36-77.

We launched the campaign on July 16th. This platform has a special feature which means that if you don’t raise the amount you are asking for, you lose all of the money collected. Of course, in this case, donations are returned to donors, who are called sponsors. continue reading

Seeing as we are making slower progress than most of the projects on this website, I am beginning to get worried. For example, one of the most prominent campaigns on Verkami in 2017 was created by photographer Paco Gomez and expeditioner Hilo Moreno. . They launched the first campaign to explore Antarctica via Whatsapp. And they managed to raise 22,000 euros for their project in just 40 days.

Lynn Cruz

How can a Cuban make their dreams come true, living in Cuba?

Because that’s essentially what we are campaigning for, to make a dream come true. Obviously we need to find similar people who like this dream and that’s where the challenge lies.

Over time, I have seen how much the Cuban political and economic system has affected us, especially when these words are used in the same sentence: “Dreams and aspirations”.

Genetic engineering in Cuba has been to decapitalize us. Cubans quite simply don’t have any credit because we don’t have a bank. In the world today, credibility is governed by accumulated sums in accounts.

How can you trust a second-rate citizen, who is being paid 30 USD per month by their government for being a professional in the sciences, arts or humanities?

I have been with actors Juliana Rabelo and Luis Trapaga here in Cuba. With filmmaker Terely Vigoa, who collaborates from Madrid, because internet access is another problem we face.

While the number of places we can connect to social media have increased on the island, we still have problems not only because of the slow connection, but also because of how much it costs.

We are all working subject to one single idea. Over time, we have realized that the best reward for our efforts won’t be found in a sponsor who contributes a large sum of money (although that could also be the case), but we would like to recover the ritual nature that our theater has lost.

We have discovered that we can make Cuban theater for the world thanks to the internet. Raising an audience’s awareness by choosing a focus that stems from desperation.

We have taken action in our art and to defend our civil rights out of consciousness and this has also brought us consequences. So, why not take our own testimonies as a starting point? This is where the idea for Patriotismo 36-77 came from.

If our project is successful and we manage to bring the most sponsors we can together, we would invite them all to see the play live, on our vimeo channel. We would add English subtitles because we want anyone, anywhere to be able to participate.

We would suggest times that suit both the West and East. People will be able to comment on social media. Write texts. Write a critical analysis which would help us to improve our art.

The livestream of the play will be in HD and the cameraman will follow actors throughout the entire performance, so that everyone seeing it online can enjoy a more cinematic recording.

On the other hand, the audience present at the live performance will see a play, a piece of performance art and the recording of the movie at the same time.

Note: This article, in English Translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

Independent Cuban Films Continue to Make Headway Internationally / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 23 August 2018 – When darkness seems to hang over us a little heavier, there is a truth that shines through: “The essential thing is to work, to create.”

It has been over a year now since our documentary Nadie, which we tried to screen at a private venue: “Casa Galeria El Circulo”, suffered police repression. Then, during the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, we received a strange email to cancel the screening of this same documentary at the festival, after it had initially been accepted.

After hearing our accounts about censorship not only on the island but abroad too, visual artist Tania Bruguera told us about the persecution her own work had suffered and how this had gone beyond seas and borders and that this should be reported. continue reading

This is how the idea for the Cuban Cinema under Censorship exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMa, which was held last March, was born.

A total of 8 movies were shown as part of Bruguera’s project which she put forward with the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism (INSTAR), which started operating at the end of 2017 in Havana.

Then, in April, Cuban-Lebanese-American Nat Chediak, an intellectual and film enthusiast, founder of the Miami Film Festival, organized the first Independent Cuban Film Festival outside of Cuba under the name, Forbidden Fruit.

From left to right: Angel Santiesteban, Rafael Almanza, Rafael Alcides, Tania Bruguera.

The festival took place at the Coral Gables Art Cinema in Miami, which Chediak is currently responsible for programming, and was also curated by critic Alejandro Rios.

At this time, a new copy of the movie produced outside of Cuban institutions, is headlining at the World Cinema Amsterdam Independent Film Festival which is underway right now and will end on August 26th. It also includes movies which have had protection from Cuban institutions, the most noteworthy being Sergio y Serguei(RTV Comercial) by Ernesto Daranas or Ultimos Dias en La Habana by Fernando Perez (ICAIC).

In this way, it has become evident that independent filmmakers are beginning to become a force to be reckoned with. Bruguera has kicked off a new funding campaign to continue developing Cuban film, which is deprived in Cuba and only survives thanks to filmmakers’ own initiatives.

Today, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) only produces historical movies. Alejandro Gil’s movie about 8 medical students who were shot during Spanish colonial times is currently in the post-production phase as is Jorge Luis Sanchez’ movie which focusses on the character of Julian del Casal, a poet who represented the move towards modernism in Cuban literature; as well as Rigoberto Lopez who is working on a movie about Ignacio Agramente, a hero of Cuba’s independence wars.

ICAIC doesn’t seem to have any interest in integrating new filmmakers either, and the way scripts are chosen within this institution is still unknown.

In contrast, INSTAR’s deadline for submissions will end on September 8th. Filmmakers interested in taking part can fill out a form online or download one as a PDF file. This is essentially an opportunity to make your first movie.

This opportunity offers a niche for everyone who wants to make their first feature movie, short movie or documentary. It’s a question of thinking about film from its genesis outside of government institutions.

Few outdoors shoots, a reduced technical team, would be strategies that allow these movies to be made.

Now is a good time for Cuban film thanks to these initiatives by Cubans who have managed to pave the way for Cuban film abroad and try to continue developing and offering opportunities to the Seventh Art created on the island, with or without the protection of Cuban Film Laws.

Note: This article, in its English translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

Making a Movie in Cuba with Porno Para Ricardo / Lynn Cruz

Gorki Aguila and Porno Para Ricardo in a scene from “Corazon Azul” (Blue Heart)

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 17 August 2018 – Last Saturday, we filmed a new scene for the movie Corazon Azul (Blue Heart) by Miguel Coyula. This time, we went to the Playa neighborhood in the capital where Paja Recol is located, a recording studio and Gorki Aguila’s home, leader of punk-rock band, Porno para Ricardo.

It’s incredible how the fact that this band can’t play on the island has become second nature.

Like anyone else from this punk genre, he rips every taboo and social convention to shreds. Everything is game for these musicians. Sex, Fidel Castro, a State Security agent, an official or even the outrageous figure of a district representative, who in reality is actually a city mayor. continue reading

It’s best if he doesn’t talk about you, my friend used to say. To be honest, it was the first time I saw this band play live. They played the same part of the song “Tipo Normal” (Normal guy) chosen by Coyula for a scene in the movie, over and over again.

A boundless energy and Aguila’s special charisma, along with Renai Kayrus and Yimel Garcia, filled the room.  In my mind, one question kept going round and around: what’s going on in this country?

I still can’t understand how, in all this time, I’ve only known about their work via USB drives, when they are literally only a few minutes away from my house.

How is it possible that Cubans can’t see these three musicians play, who only rehearse because the Cuban government doesn’t let them play?

The country has been drained over time. Now, we are only left with wrong ways. There is no reason why these musicians continue to be confined to a room in an apartment.

Art doesn’t make sense if it can’t be shown. At this point, we will never know what this band could have been if they had enjoyed full freedom.

They are witty, intense and original. While talking to Gorki about their impact on me, he told me in his humble way: “If you only knew, people have told me this, that they like to see us play.”

Miguel Coyula filming Prono Para Ricardo for “Corazon Azul.”

He also told me that when they were allowed to play concerts, they were always thinking about their performance. One time, they showed a guitar at the beginning and told the audience: “This Soviet guitar needs to die”.

They gradually distanced themselves and ended up becoming radicalized. Having celebrated its 20th anniversary, this band carries the tragic sign of what it means to be ahead of your time.

To be honest, they are missionaries at the wrong time because Cuban reality was greatly marked by the disastrous ‘90s. And in 1998, Porno para Ricardo was founded.

That’s to say, that Gorki, Kayrus and Ciro Diaz Penedo (also a founder) were already in the future. They were singing from the past to a post-revolutionary Cuba.

Nobody on the island had ever dared to mock Fidel Castro before like they did. This is important because eliminating political humor was one of the first changes that Castro made to the press.

The Revolution had to be serious. Coyula’s movies have a special connection to this band. You can see this in his movies Memorias del Desarrollo (2010) and Nadie (2017).

Now, in Corazon Azul, they not only come together with the same energy, but Porno para Ricardois responsible for creating part of the movie’s soundtrack and they will also appear playing on a TV channel, created within the movie’s plot.

Slowly, Cuba’s truly underground and alternative world will come together like a puzzle. Prison, persecution, repression are all constants for the majority of artists in this universe that have an influence, not in the fringes of the city, but outside of the Museum of Cuban Socialism’s political establishment.

Note: This article, in English, is taken from The Havana Times

Persecution of Cuban Artists and Intellectuals Gains Legal Framework / Lynn Cruz

The poet Rafael Alcides and actress Lynn Cruz in the film “Nadie” by Miguel Coyula

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 17 July 2018 — Everybody knows that there has been a upswing of repression and censorship of artists here in Cuba. Within its institutions and recently, censorship of the film “Quiero hacer una pelicula” (I Want to Make A Movie) by Yimit Ramirez, during the previous edition of ICAIC’s Young Filmmakers’ Festival.

This led the young filmmakers and organizers at this annual event to protest against the intolerance of Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) officials, who disrespected the program made by the organizing committee by showing the film in small venue so few people could see it.

Now, with the government’s so-called “constitutional reforms”, Decree-Law no. 349/2018 and its Chapter of Violations has appeared, with a new crime of contempt against artists. continue reading

Another attempt to gag Cuba’s artistic community. It’s clear that this new decree-law aims to give a legal framework to the arbitrary measures that were already being carried out by government police and security forces.

The #00 Biennial which took place in May 2018 (an event organized by the Museum of Dissidence and Omni Zona Franca) annoyed government authorities and Ministry of Culture officials because of its financial but also political independence.

Many of those who offered their personal spaces (homes or private studios) were given the same fine that now appears in this “new decree-law”.

It could be deduced then that these were being applied illegally before because this law still hadn’t come into effect yet, or at least nobody had been informed about it. An independent Biennial had never existed before either.

Cuban artists weren’t the only ones who were persecuted, foreign artists who also attended this first independent visual arts event were also persecuted.

In April 2017, the documentary Nadie by Miguel Coyula suffered a police raid and State Security agents prevented the screening from taking place at the La Casa Galeria El Circulo, in the Vedado neighborhood at No. 316 10th street, between 13th and 15th streets. Painter Luis Trapaga and Lia Villares own this space.

During the premiere of my play Los Enemigos del Pueblo, State Security forces and the Police prevented guests from entering La Casa Galeria El Circulo again, where it took place in front of an audience of only two persons. This happened in November 2017.

Artist Tania Bruguera has been harassed, repressed, suffered abuses of power by State Security. All of this as well as her critical path in performance art are a result of her creating the Institute of Artivism which has summoned well-renowned figures from all over the world.

She was recently slandered in Cuba’s official newspaper Granma. Acting with total impunity, the government accused her of being a CIA agent, without giving any proof to support these charges which she has been publicly accused of. Bruguera also received a 1500 peso fine during the #00 Biennial.

Recently, the unfair imprisonment of scientist and writer Ariel Ruiz Urquiola proved how the system oppresses an individual and tries to reduce them to nothing, when the only thing they have done is raise their voice to condemn the government’s injustices.

His release after nearly two months in jail and a year-long sentence also prove Ariel’s brilliance, which are qualities that are much-needed today, and they have made Cubans both in and outside of Cuba aware.

Legitimizing repression is nothing more than a new terror strategy. Obviously, it’s part of art’s job to question an artist’s reality. To exercise their right to be free not only in form but in content too.

Creation can’t exist without freedom, especially if it is created as a means of perseverance and not for lucrative ends. None of these artists I’ve mentioned charge their audience an entry fee.

All of this goes to show the determination of Cubans both on and outside the island, even when they don’t have weapons, governmental or legislative power. We don’t need leaders, but causes. We don’t need to harangue, we need to work.

Cuba’s destiny doesn’t belong to a handful of military men or empowered civilians. Cuba wants to follow the path that Marti once dreamt of for his homeland: “With everyone and for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Note: Text, in English, from The Havana Times

Cuban Poet Rafael Alcides has Left Us / Lynn Cruz

Rafael Alcides

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 20 June 2018 — Yesterday, on June 19, 2018, in the afternoon, 85-year-old Rafael Alcides passed away. The sensualist poet, friend and main character in “Nadie”managed to do what very few can: “Live in keeping with his ideals.”

He spent his last days resting at his home in Nuevo Vedado, after having fought a long battle against cancer.

The end of his journey has left a deep abyss in not only the people who knew and admired him, but in everyone who has fought for their ideas. continue reading

He was ostracized because of his critical thinking. He was such a grand figure that he would always say that he hadn’t been censored, despite his novel “Contra Castro” and poetry collection “Nadie” being banned.

Alcides chose to distance himself from social and cultural life because he didn’t agree with the direction national politics were taking. He was referring to Fidel Castro’s treachery, to the ideas he himself had fought for as part of the underground movement before the 1959 revolution.

He inspired filmmaker Miguel Coyula with his eloquence and gift for speaking leading Coyula to make his first documentary “Nadie” (Nobody) about him. Coyula always says he will keep the film showing (in private in Cuba) for as long as possible, in the face of the poet’s brilliant personality.

Being a free man living in a totalitarian system has meant that this film is still banned, even today. Nobody on the island is talking about it. Not critics, or poets from his own generation, or pro-government press or the news.

However, the poet has had a taste of eternity. Governments and politicians come and go. Those of us who love him will always be “grateful like dogs” for having his work among our literature.

Alcides didn’t have an age. He was brimming with so much passion that he seemed more like a child who was stunned by a world unknown to him.

For those of us who were close to him, we also have the priestly example of how he treated his writings, unwilling to sell out.

As a friend, I know that I will always miss him and that I will have to get used to thinking, what would Alcides have had to say about this?

The poet from Bayamo asked that his ashes be scattered in Barrancas, his hometown.

Note: Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Government Withdraws My Punishment / Lynn Cruz

Click on picture for link to audio of hearing.

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 21 May 2018 –On Friday May 18th, at the Actuar Agency, the Labor Justice Committee (OJL) informed me of its recent decisions regarding the complaint I filed because this former organization, especially its director Jorge Luis Frias Armenteros, violated my artistic representation contract because of my online activity against government and Party leaders.

This column, where I write and give my opinions about social and cultural subjects normally, seems to have been the reason for my sanction.

Frias not only violated my contract by not giving me 30 days notice, which stemmed from him not wanting to represent me, but it also prevented me from working at an International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV) workshop, which still legally belongs to Actuar. continue reading

After several phone calls from the Head of the Committee, Ivan Rodriguez, I went to the meeting: “They ruled in your favor,” OJL members told me. Prepared for the worst, I didn’t get it. I was knocked off my guard by the news and also by the fact that everyone was talking to me at the same time (which happens quite often here in Cuba).

They had to tell me one more time, my punishment had been lifted. I had been repressed, condemned for a violation which I didn’t commit and which I have been fighting since late March not only with Actuar but also with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV).

After pressure was created via independent media and social media, the government decided that the OJL would accept my complaint and rule that a violation of Resolution 44 of June 16th 2014 was made, within the artistic sector’s labor regulations.

It doesn’t imply that actors have to have pre-established beliefs or ideologies in any of the four clauses present in Chapter 3, Article 17.1.

Covertly, it appears that Frias has committed another crime against me, protected by articles 8 clause d and 24 of Law No. 83 in 1997. Improper Imposition of a Disciplinary Measure, which is foreseen and punishable in article 297.1 and 2 of our Criminal Code.

Even so, Frias continues to hold his position. In return, my punishment has been withdrawn and I can continue to criticize the government. As a result, the regime has publicly recognized that neither Frias nor I committed a crime, in the eyes of Actuar’s employees. A happy ending for everyone.

And if we are taken to trial, we will both be prisoners of conscience: him for blindly obeying an ideology and me for doing the opposite. This unusual and unprecedented event shows that being on either end of the spectrum is dangerous today in Cuba, which is a great thing for those who fight for their rights.

Of course, while the OJL proved me right, at the same time they informed me that this would be until another “fact”, “element”, “I don’t know what” comes up. Those words mean government, so this is only a momentary victory, I imagine they are trying to let time pass, forget the scandal, to then expel me again.

Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Youth Losing Their Fear / Lynn Cruz

Cardumen

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 17 May 2018 — While high-ranking officials were driving their cars and locking themselves into air-conditioned offices, a group of artists realized a project (perhaps the most ambitious to date), the recently concluded #00 Havana Biennial. Outside of Cuba’s institutional establishment, it took place from May 5-15.

Responses from state-led cultural organizations were harsh, along with those from State Security. They have ceased to represent the artists who joined in this project, as well as standing in the way of their right to exhibit their works at state-controlled galleries in the future. Repressive aftershocks also took place in private spaces, where presentations were held.

The government has always questioned the funding independent artists use. Family remittancces are among the main ways hard currency enters our economy today. However, people who send them have been labeled “traitors”, “stateless”, “worms”, “Imperialism’s bootlickers”, and even had eggs thrown at them in the past. continue reading

If the government really wants to establish a dialogue with young artists, it needs to start off by recovering our collective memory, calling things for what they really are and articulate a more coherent discourse, at least. Instead, intolerance and lies continue. White money can’t be the only thing that doesn’t threaten power.

The Cuban regime offers almost nothing to artists, but rebelling against it will provoke it to use all of its resources and forces to crush you. Why? Because of ideology? As a result, this can only be applied to business. Regarding remittances for example, it doesn’t matter whether the relative sending it to you believes in socialism or not, money is the only thing that matters. Therefore, there can’t be another biennial because the Havana Biennial is the established market and is controlled by the feudal lord.

Recently, young filmmakers who were unhappy about what happened at the past ICAIC Young Filmmakers Festival, and they called for signatures for an anonymous campaign called Cardumen. Censorship of the movie Quiero hacer una pelicula, by film student Yimit Ramirez, the lack of officials’ understanding as well as unfair accusations because it was made independently, stirred the critical consciousness of these budding artists.

Tania Bruguera carries on with her Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism, INSTAR. Bruguera has managed to develop a space for independent and free art due to her artistic career and international fame. As a precedent, as well as her personal work, she created the workshop: “Arte de Conducta”, where she has discovered and educated talented people, who have now attended the #00 Biennial as guests.

This was what happened with performance artist Ana Olema. In her piece, she sued the State for having made her body disappear. Conceptually-speaking, she also made use of underground movement strategies in Cuba before 1959.

Every big idea starts off as a grain of sand. Between all of these communicating vessels, a super verbal dialogue, one thing is certain like a gem of Cuban culture, critic and intellectual Gerardo Mosquera said recently, who was also invited to the #00 Havana Biennial: “Young people are losing their fear.”

Translation from Havana Times

The Cuban Revolution Sentences a Revolutionary Scientist / Lynn Cruz

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 10 May 2018 – Cuban scientist sentenced to one year in prison for ‘disrespecting” government authority, was the title of an article recently published in the Miami Herald. And that is Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, a universal researcher. His work and light transcend the borders of this island.

A great man, with a high level of thought and a firm opinion, he appeared one afternoon at my house to offer his support after the injustice committed against me, which today prevents me from working as an actress in Cuba, for reasons similar to those he has faced and which led to his current prison sentence. continue reading

During the government of Fidel Castro, Ruiz refused to sign a letter approved by many of his colleagues, as well as important intellectuals and Cuban artists, in support of the execution of three young men who hijacked a boat that traveled from Regla to Havana in an attempt to escape the island.

He expressed his disagreement in being an accomplice to such a crime. For that reason he was expelled from his teaching position at the University of Havana in 2003.

At that time, writers like Jose Saramago, Eduardo Galeano. Artists like Ana Belén, Víctor Manuel, who sympathized with the revolution, expressed their disagreement with the regime over the summary execution.

Years later, Ruiz managed to work again as a scientist, apparently his punishment was over. During a congress in California, he presented an investigation on the indiscriminate hunting of turtles in Pinar del Río and in the town of Nuevitas in the province of Camagüey. Then he was again expelled.

His last role as a scientist happened after having won a scholarship to work together with the Humboldt Institute in Germany.

However, Ruiz also carried out a hunger strike because of the lack of medicine to cure his sister’s cancer. After his protest, a series of negligence and abandonment of patients cases in similar conditions at the Oncological Hospital located in Havana came to light.

After his dismissals he moved to Pinar del Rio where he has worked on a farm that he also shares with his mother and sister.

Now, he has been sentenced to one year in political prison, masked under a “contempt”, charge after the actions perpetrated against his farm by State Security agents. Ruiz Urquiola lives as he thinks and follows the revolutionary Marti traditions, as an honest man who defends the right to think and speak without hypocrisy.

More than one hundred years after our national hero died in combat, in the land where a revolution based on his ideas took place, one cannot be free or honest.

Translation from Havana Times

Utopia in Havana at the Alternative Biennial / Lynn Cruz

At the Instar venue of the Havana Alternative Biennial

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 7 May 2018 — Gerardo Mosquera, an important art critic and Cuban intellectual, made a gesture of solidarity towards me by inviting me to read his paper: “Utopia in Havana”, as part of a theoretical event which forms part of the Havana Alternative Biennial, which was independently organized and has received quite a lot of pressure from the Cuban government and institutions.

The news that I would be the one to give voice to his words made me forget my uncertain professional future for a few days, a future which the regime’s arbitrary decision has put in jeopardy, preventng me from working as an actress, even though I have always lived and developed my career as such in the country mostly.

With its secondary office at the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism (INSTAR), led by Tania Bruguera, this theoretical event took place on Sunday and a considerable number of artists, academics and vendors attended, not only from Cuba, but from different countries such as Brazil, Norway, Denmark, Mexico, Spain and the US. continue reading

In this paper, Mosquera carries out a meticulate analysis of the Cuban government’s political maneuvers, by way of the founding and developing the Havana Biennial, which aimed to establish a South-South interaction, to connect artists in this hemisphere (the majority, he says), but really it aspired to transform Cuba into the leader of the Cold War, within the so-called Third World.

It’s interesting to read what Mosquera writes when he remembers the origins of the Havana Biennial: “If we are marginalized, we will create our own space.” He was refering to the isolation the US government had put Cuba in. However, I imagine this is the same reason which drove the #00 Havana Biennial’s founders to rebel against Cuban institutions’ own exclusion, who govern over what art needs to portray and create in an authoritarian manner, without taking artists’ needs and much less the public’s, into account.

As a result, the Havana Biennal has become the fifth ongoing international biennial in the world today. However, Mosquera, one of its founders, was never invited again. He also says that the rest of the official organizers continue to be the same group who set out with this project in the beginning and that they have no desire to change it.

This was made perfectly clearing when the Berlin Wall came down: “Cuba was unable to reinvent itself in the post-Cold War era. Instead of responding to new and challenging times, it introduced minor changes to keep everything the same,” Mosquera mentions.  Therefore, the Biennial was created within the Revolution’s utopiam which fit in with the community, with a participatory atmosphere, where students collaborated with artists voluntarily, in search of new talents and giving them an opportunity to exhibit their work, but it ended up becoming an arts market.

Mosquera draws our attention to how the #00 Biennial organizers’ bold act, which could learn from past experience, advocating for them: “to not impose a unilateral Messianism”, and goes on to add: “they have to remove themselves from the obsession of “changer la vie” which drives the utopia towards an authoritarian lack of reality.

He also quoted Eliseo Diego: “maybe the best reason to create a biennial is to want to make an exhibition, which doesn’t exist, come to life, and decide to make it yourself.”

In doing so, Cuba’s utopia will continue to take place until May 15th in Havana’s homes/galleries, in the Old Havana, Cerro, Playa, Vedado, East Havana, Marianao, Central Havana and even in Miami.

Translation from the Havana Times

Blacklisted in 21st Century Cuba / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 28 April 2018 — I have been witness to the most absurd experience in my life as an actress. I only had testimonies of actors such as Pancho Garcia, Rolen Hernandez and Mirian Munoz as a reference from the well-known “Five Grey Years” (a period of witch hunts, persecuting intellectuals, artists, homosexuals, religious people and followers in the ‘70s). I always saw these things as events in the past, but reality surpasses the imagination.

As I explained in previous posts, I was recently expelled from the state-led agency Actuar for arbitrary reasonsThe agency’s director, Jorge Luis Frias, carried out the measure without taking into account the fact that he was violating the clauses of my artistic representation contract, which I have had with this company for over 10 years, by blindly obeying his superiors. continue reading

Taking the Labor Ministry’s advice, I filed a written complaint. People at the Human Resources department, where Actuar’s Labor Justice Committee (OJL) resides, were very nice to me. Everyone was surprised about my situation and couldn’t understand why Frias wouldn’t tell me the reasons for my expulsion. I was also dumbfounded.  Even when I suspected what the reasons were, I refuse to take part in this nonsense.

I left them with a copy of the letter which explained what had happened. Frias has committed two violations. First of all, he canceled my contract without waiting the established 30-day period to tell the worker why this company has decided to revoke the contract. Secondly, he went behind my back and colluded with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos’ management, who knew about the measure before I was told anything and it prevented me from attending a workshop that I have worked at for the past six years as an actress.

Last week, I received a call from the OJL secretary to tell me that Friday April 20th, they would meet with me to answer my complaint. I arrived at the agreed time, however, I had to wait because the OJL boss was running late. He arrived wearing shorts and flip flops. The assembly began ten minutes later. Approximately 15 people attended.

Frias coldly admitted that he had violated my contract and the solution he offered was to reopen the contract for 30 days and then decide to revoke it again. A completely insane idea. Basically, the procedure they were using with me was the most similar to the labor trials that took place in theaters in the ‘70s.

I saw myself wearing a scarf on my head, or like Mirtha Ibarra in Hasta Cierto Punto, a Tomas Gutierrez Alea movie. I had to keep myself from smiling in the face of so much nerve and absurdity. I wouldn’t call it a lack of respect as that would be taking it too seriously.

Everyone who had treated me nicely before fell into the situation. Most people were offended because Frias, like a programmed robot, said: “She has been expelled for her protests online against the people who govern this country.”

I looked over all my assessment papers as an actress, my work contracts and it didn’t say that an artist had to be a hypocrite and dishonest anywhere. It doesn’t say in writing that an artist has to stop being free to say what to think. Everyone who was gathered there to judge my case abused and ignored the fact that their wages depend on artists work and the funds generated.

It’s even more twisted when it comes from a company that has apparently been “representing” me all this time yet hasn’t sought out a single job for me. These offices have become just another part of our bureaucracy, which has nothing to do with the reality of actors living in Cuba. Actors’ work depends on the rules of the market. Every co-production that is processed via these companies give large sums of hard currency to the country and they take a 7% cut out of our personal wages. This is what really sustains the bureaucrats who were incriminating me.

I was attending a blacklisting assembly in the middle of such an ambiguous reality. A system which doesn’t have its values defined. A veiled market economy, without a truly structural change which at least articulates a coherent discourse. More than making me sad, it made me feel like I was inside a madhouse. But, it’s better to watch the video for yourselves.

Note: Translation from Havana Times

Free Education with Clowns and Reggaeton / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 19 April 2018 — People here have been talking about reggaeton lyrics for a long time. I remember the famous video which a grandfather uploaded to YouTube, where his trendsetting grandson was grinding on top of a girl like an adult to a raucous reggaeton beat.

In front of my house, and also in front of the Ministry of Culture, is the “Union Internacional de Estudiantes” Primary School (UIE) which ironically has a huge photo poster of Che Guevara laying bricks during the school’s construction in 1961: “The Year of Education.” Today, two or three Fridays every month, birthday parties are held at this center in school hours, where better-off parents hire clowns, decorate the yard and even rent out bouncy castles, sometimes. continue reading

As well as rubbing luxury in the faces of those less advantaged financially-speaking, it is a distortion bearing in mind socialist schools still indoctrinate children with collectivism. On the other hand, lewd and violent reggaeton music doesn’t only bother the community, it also forms a part of these parties at primary schools.

Recently, a neighbor from my building called Xiomara Vazquez, the principal of the school to complain about noise. Vazquez defensively answered, arguing that children were holding a Pioneer (communist kids) activity and that they don’t put reggaeton on. That’s to say she lied outright, which you could confirm for yourself just by going out onto the balcony, and she went so far as to ask my neighbor: And you can hear it from the fourth floor?

The interesting thing is that these celebrations generally start off with children’s songs which compete in bad taste with the monotony of reggaeton music, as if you couldn’t educate children listening to classical music, for example. Clowns hired for these events don’t seem professional either. They look like buffoons and still shout even when they are speaking into a microphone. All of this anachronism provokes a distortion, as well as a strange reading about what the educational foundations are at socialist schools here in Cuba, today.

It’s very contradictory. The government’s efforts to uphold itself as the great righteous one (in appearance only), ultimately ignores or abuses the essence of teaching values. Children spend most of the day at school, therefore, the government has a great responsibility when it comes to the future, but they don’t seem to be too bothered by it.

Of course, if everything that needed to be censored was censored, instead of just artists and the press, the country would probably collapse. Art can’t change anything by itself but it can make people reflect upon certain subjects, which dissociate themselves from their context, that are perceived to be represented.

The recent rise in censorship is due to the government having seen its darkest side portrayed by independent journalism and artists. So many views can’t be wrong. They can gag artists, but they can never silence art. They can arrest journalists, but they will never silence the truth.

In the censored documentary Nadie,” by Miguel Coyula, poet Rafael Alcides, the lead character, talks about double standards in Cuba, about how children are taught to be fake from a young age, thereby losing their innocence very quickly.

Ever since the ‘90s and the euphemism of calling those years of great crisis (unnecessarily too) the “Special Period,” began this journey of social deterioration, which the country is currently facing today.

Maybe teachers’ inertia and Vazquez’ own, not knowing how to deal with economic differences or because teaching staff don’t earn enough to make it to the end of the month, but rather receive extras from well-off parents, or because of the lack of opportunities to relax and have access to entertainment, are some of the reasons why they adopt this permissive and deforming behavior. Where does education stand today as a priority, as the driving force behind future generations?

Translation from Havana Times

An Unjust Punishment Twofold / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 3 April 2018 — After being expelled from the San Antonio de los Banos School of Film and TV (EICTV), the Actuar Agency has decided to not represent me anymore.

Actuar doesn’t find me work but it stops me from being able to invoice my work as an actress if somebody else hires me in Cuba.

There are two companies which represent actors who work in film and TV, Actuar and Caricato, both of which are owned by the State. The fact that they are denying me representation means that my legal assessment documents from here on out as an actress in order to get paid, won’t be valid, as the company won’t validate them. This decision is an attempt to destroy and put the brakes on my professional life here in Cuba. continue reading

But, something strange has happened, it seems that Actuar and the EICTV, didn’t reach an agreement. The EICTV is blaming Actuar for refusing to represent me, but I received word of Actuar’s order after I was banned from taking part in the Norma Angeleri workshop at EICTV.

Jorge Luis Frias, Actuar’s director, bit his tongue when I asked what the reasons behind this decision were. As I caught him off guard and the script he was supposed to repeat hadn’t been written yet, he didn’t know what to answer, so he promised to write down the reasons for my expulsion in a week’s time because the real people who executed the order don’t reside within this agency.

Has this decision come from the Ministry of Culture or Villa Marista, Cuban State Security’s military base?

In face of such an obvious sham, I told him that they had also done something illegal, because before undoing my contract, both parties have a thirty-day period to repeal the decision if need be, if I haven’t worked for longer than six months or because of absences, and if both parties don’t reach an agreement, a legal process could be opened.

So, I am still legally a member of Actuar, however, my last wages from EICTV were brought to my house in cash, when Actuar should have issued me a cheque. Frias, like any good executing soldier, didn’t care about going off his bureaucratic script because the “good director” has clearly been assured that he wouldn’t suffer any consequences, even if I made a claim.

Now then, it doesn’t say anywhere in this joke of a contract that representation must be withdrawn because the artist doesn’t accept being gagged and stopped from saying what she thinks, which is the real reason behind these schemes and manipulations.

I can’t explain how bad I felt while I tried to explain what had happened to Angeleri, who had practically been deceived by every board member at the EICTV.

Nobody who lives outside of Cuba is ready to understand that this is a sick society where everyone wears a mask and that the line between the truth and a lie, between what’s real and pretend, has been lost.

But, they haven’t punished me because luckily enough, I’ve never lived off of this salary, I have always gone to the EICTV because I love film and that’s why I offer my services as an actress to the students and professors there. I feel I have a duty to work there, to give back all of the knowledge that my own teachers have given me, in this marvellous exchange that making a movie entails.

The only thing they’ve managed to do with these decisions is to destroy the school’s image, which is far from being the place that Fernando Birri described during its founding:

“So that the place of utopias which is nowhere by definition, can be found somewhere.”

This is another of the Revolution’s failed dreams, in the hands of irresponsible, unprincipled persons who are blinded by power.

In my case, the measure only reaffirms what I’ve always been, an independent actress and the students that I’ve worked with at the EICTV who want to call me, I’d like to tell them that I was indoctrinated at socialist schools, where I was taught that the most important thing in life was to be good at whatever I chose to do and, for a long time, my History teachers made me believe that money would cease to exist in 2000 in Cuba.

Starting over is a real challenge for any artist. If they want me, I’ll work for free. Artists don’t believe in bureaucracy.

The video below is not translated into English but it is subtitled in Spanish:

Post reprinted from Havana Times.

My Unexpected Expulsion / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 23 March 2018 — I have been working with the San Antonio de los Banos School of Film and TV (EICTV) for sixteen years.

Normally when teachers, both Cuban and foreign, connect with some actors, they always ask for these every time they hold their workshops, where purely creative interests are considered, as part of a dynamic that transcends any ideology, creed or political affiliation.

This is what happened with Argentinian director and actress Norma Angeleri, who I have been working with in an actors direction workshop for six years. continue reading

I recently discovered that a Cuban professor had been expelled from the documentary school where he had taught for 12 years, who hasn’t gone public with the news, because he is still waiting for a response from Fernando Rojas, the Vice-Minister of Culture.

Rojas and Susana Molina, the current director of EICTV, decided to expel him because they believed him to be: “politically incorrect”.

Of course, this would never have happened when the school was a Non-governmental organization. In the hands of political commissars now, unprincipled subjects with a green light to crush anyone who threatens their weak official discourse, there isn’t any kind of will to maintain the school’s prestige.

On Monday March 19th, an actress friend of mine told me that the casting for Angeleri’s workshop would take place on Wednesday the 21st. The news took me by surprise as I had been working on some exercises the week before for the theses of direction students on the regular course. I was sure they would call me for Angeleri’s workshop, but it seems I’ve also been put in the category: “politically incorrect”, but because I’m just an actress, they didn’t even spare themselves the effort of telling me, as they believed that everything would have been assumed.

I immediately called up producer Rafael Acosta, who I have known ever since I first started working at the school, and after insisting more than once, he finally answered. I really needed Arley Perera’s phone number, who is responsible for calling the actors, but Acosta told me he didn’t have his number, and when I asked him about the casting, he replied that I was indeed not on the list.

Then, I decided to speak to Angeleri myself so as to clear up any doubts, as she had written an email to me saying: See you soon, dear! When I contacted her, she couldn’t hide her surprise and said that she had asked Perera if I was going to the casting and that he had awkwardly replied: I don’t know, I’ll tell you later. It was after 7 PM when we spoke, Perera had already gone home and Angeleri suggested I call Orietta Roque, coordinator of Higher Education, which is where the workshop was taking place, to make sure that it wasn’t a misunderstanding.

Roque told me that there wasn’t a problem with me personally, that it was the producers’ decision and that she couldn’t do anything to change it. We had a confrontation on the phone, and she finally said that I wouldn’t be able to go to the casting.

Nothing that Roque had said was true, first of all, her husband Gerardo Chijona, who also teaches a workshop on the same program, doesn’t allow producers to organize his casting and he, like the majority of teachers, take their own cast.

On the other hand, the injustice is even greater if you take into account the fact that Angeleri teaches a casting workshop with complex scenes from an acting perspective, with real film rigor, as her students are film professionals, which means to say that even if I went to the casting, that doesn’t mean I’m going to get a place on the workshop as it’s highly competitive.

I have also got several job offers from abroad thanks to this workshop’s intensity.

In the end, and in the face of the blatant situation, I just had to apologize to Angeleri for the shame she would experience for seeing what it means to live in a country where the slightest bit of respect for professional competence doesn’t exist as it isn’t my ability and discipline as an actress that is being decided behind my back, but what my point of view on the country’s current situation is, which is being subjected to a new terror policy.

They didn’t show Angeleri any respect as they lied to her face. The schools’ producers, alongside Roque, have censored me giving vague excuses which only prove the lack of personal conviction those at the head of arbitrary measures have who are only trying to cut me from my profession.

Note: Translation from English version of Havana Times