Rafael Alcides Close Up / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 June 2016 — Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula participated in the New Media Film Festival of Los Angeles with the seventh chapter of his series Rafael Alcides. The short film was part of a more than two-hour interview with with the well-known poet and writer, addressing topics such as art, beauty and Cuba past and present.

Filmed in Havana, with a minimalist presentation, in this seventh installment the actress Lynn Cruz recites the poem The Stranger, which gives its title to the chapter, in a moving and unadorned interpretation that salvages the lyrical work of an author now silenced in Cuba’s official catalogs and anthologies. Continue reading “Rafael Alcides Close Up / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

In the previous installments of the series, Alcides reflects on the relationship between intellectuals and power, the figure of Fidel Castro and the role played by the Cuban people in several events of the last 150 years.

The Stranger is competing in the Web Series category, along with submissions from 37 countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Vietnam. The festival will take place June 7-9 at Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles and the short, just over two minutes long, is being presented as a world premiere.

The showing in Los Angeles will constitute the premiere of an official exhibition of the series directed, edited and designed by Miguel Coyula, who is also in charge of photography. However, the film has been available for weeks on the filmmaker’s Youtube channel.

During the last Young Filmmakers Exhibition, Coyula was invited to participate in the panel Routes and Routes, Cuban Cinema of the Diaspora in the 21st Century, organized by the researched Zaira Zarza. This panel debated the peculiarities of the diaspora and the formulas to keep alive contacts between “those who leave” and their audience on the island.

In his presentation, Coyula formally introduced the sixth chapter of the series dedicated to Alcides, under the title Capitalism. The filmmaker maintains in these recent creations his particular style of independent and artisanal production, relaying on clean and simple visual effects that build to a striking finale, with his pinpoint accuracy in mixing music, voice and image.

Coyula’s debut in feature films was Red Cockroaches and among his most outstanding productions is Memories of Overdevelopment, which was chosen in 2010 as the Best Cuban Film of that year by the International Film Guide. After several years living in the United States, the filmmaker has returned to live in Havana, where he is filming his third feature film: Blue Heart.

See also:

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Miguel Coyula: All Movies All The Time / Regina Coyula

Resignation Over Censorship / Miguel Coyula

Independent Cinema, Dependent Cinema / Miguel Coyula

 

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 6th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the previous Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 5th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the other Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 4th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the other Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula, with Lynn Cruz and thanks to Leonardo ds Vinci, Tomaso Albinoni, Alberto Korda

The other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Music by Ivan Lajardi and thanks to Lynn Cruz and Marta Aquino.

The other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

A series of videos with Rafael Alcides, by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula (with Lynn Cruz and thanks to Marta Aquino)

Links to the other videos:

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

Cuban Filmmaker Miguel Coyula / Judith Zinis

Miguel Coyula
Miguel Coyula

Wild River Review, Judith Zinis, October 2015 — Miguel Coyula, a one-man cinema “band,” writes, films, edits, and does post-production on all his films.  Although his work has won awards and been well received in the United States, Europe, and South America, none of his films have been released in Cuba.  During several evenings in Havana, we explored his approach to filmmaking and his views on the difficulties of being an artist in both Cuba and the United States.

Mr. Coyula studied film at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba (EICTV) and has spent extensive periods in the United States as the recipient of a Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute Scholarship, on a Guggenheim grant, and as a lecturer at various universities.  As one fan commented on his first feature film, Red Cockroaches, “this film should be shown to every beginning filmmaker.”  Made for $2,000.00 and described as a merging of surrealism and science fiction, Red Cockroaches, with its high production values, seems more like a big budget studio film than low-budget independent cinema.  Variety described it as  “a triumph of technology in the hands of a visionary with know-how….”  As Castro once did, Coyula operates outside the system, financing his films through grants and investors who as he put it, “are doing it for the love of art. “

His second feature-length film, Memories of Underdevelopment is based on Edmundo Desnoes’ novel of the same name.  Desnoes’ first novel resulted in the iconic 1968 Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment, adapted by the revered director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.  Both the novel and the films trace a character’s unsuccessful attempt to adjust to two differing economic and cultural spheres, the early days of socialism in Cuba, and life in capitalist America.  Well received by Cuban critics, presently, the film has no distributer.  Like the character in the two Memories films, Mr. Coyula is caught in the middle, a cinema no man’s land.  Undeterred, he is presently developing Corazon Azul, a science fiction film.

Read the rest of the interview here.

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)
The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 July 2015 — Shy, but with a quick wit and a direct expression, the filmmaker Miguel Coyula (b. Havana 1977) opens the door the room where he works and lets 14ymedio into this creative space in a Vedado apartment. The director of Memories of Underdevelopment is craftsman of the cinema: he films, directs, edits, does the special effects and music, all the while organizing the entire production of the film.

Over coffee, he talks about the obstacles to making films in Cuba and his new project Corazón Azul (Blue Heart), a story set in an alternative reality after an explosion in genetic engineering. In this fictional future, the Cuban government launches the literal creation of its old dream: the New Man.

Luz Escobar: You are immersed in the shooting of your new film, Blue Heart, how far along is the project?

Miguel Coyula: I started shooting the film little by little and, if I can, in chronological order. Every month I am adding one more minute and I can see how it grows. You want to teach the actors, who in the end are working almost for free, and this is a great incentive to see the development of the characters, to see how everything is turning out. Continue reading ““I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

This is out of necessity. It takes a long time because the structure of the production is to treat each scene as if it were a short film in itself. That is, film a scene, edit it and then start the next scene. It is the only way that has worked for me because it is very difficult to synchronize all the actors. They have to do other things to live, accept other projects, and it makes if hard for me to get them all together to film a scene.

Escobar. So it takes a long time?

“Cinema is like vomiting the subconscious in images, trying to eliminate all possible rationality.”

Coyula. It can take me a month to do two scenes. It takes longer because I do the camera work, the editing, the sound design, the special effects… since I don’t have any money, I end up putting in the time. It is the price I pay. I’m thinking something similar to what happened with “Memories of Overdevelopment,” I had 40 minutes of it done when I got a Guggenheim Fellowship and with that I was able to film the missing scenes. This knowing how to find the money is a talent some people have and others don’t. Unfortunately I don’t have it and I do what I do, which is to move forward and make the film grow bit by bit.

Escobar. Where did the idea for this film come from?

Coyula. Blue Heart, and my first feature film, Red Cockroaches, are based on a novel I wrote in 1999 called Red Sea, Blue Evil, which was published two years ago by La Pereza Ediciones in Miami. There will be a third, which is the main story of the book, but I don’t know when.

Escobar. With the kind of film that you do, how difficult it is to find budget or to get into the film festivals?

Coyula. In the European institutions, which often finance moviemaking in that area, they have created a concept they call, “cinema of the Latin American author.” These are profiles which strengthen a kind of filmmaking in which there is a specific social context, a minimalist staging without manipulating the image, the story. There is no room for science fiction in this. In addition, Blue Heart is not pure science fiction, so it doesn’t fit into the film industry models. It is a hybrid of many genres and formats.

Escobar.  Auteur cinema?

Coyula. This concept is a bit absurd, like that of the Hubert Bals Foundation in the Netherlands. Seeing the projects they finance, you see that the movies begin to resemble each other. It is putting art into a profile, creating a style, something that has nothing to do with auteur cinema where supposedly one looks for the distinct.

Escobar. Why do you introduce animation into your films?

Coyula. In many of my films special effects and animation have been ways to resolve them. I also grew up watching cartoons, and I really liked the Japanese ones in which each frame of a sequence is in a different plane. Every time there is a cut, each new image is a frame that has not been used before in the scene. I use this in the way I build the visual grammar of my films to escalate the tension in a scene.

”This position of distance and of criticizing everything is very important when it comes time to create.”

I also noticed that the Japanese didn’t have a big budget to do animation at 24 frames a second like Disney, so they concentrated on the most striking visual design, because the animation was very limited and they didn’t have the money to make it very fluid. Clearly, this then became a style.

Escobar. What is your opinion about the aspirations of the G-20 Group which, within the margins of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), is pushing for the implementation of a Film Law for Cuba?

Coyula. I feel good about what they’re doing. Making movies consumes so much of my time that I feel going to meetings in this country is a waste of time. On the other hand, the laws scare me a little. I want more cinema and fewer laws. The fact that this comes coupled with a tax worries me, it could be very harmful to people who are making non-profit films.

They could end up imposing the same tax on a filmmaker who is making a reggaeton video clip as on another who spends years filming a movie that isn’t going to make any money, that isn’t commercial. I attended one of those meetings at the beginning but I haven’t gone back.

Escobar. You are considered an “odd duck” among Cuban filmmakers. How do you see yourself?

Coyula. I try to make films that I would go to see. I don’t see cinema as it was often seen in the ‘60s, as an instrument of transforming the thinking of a country. If it generates dialog, of course that is very good, but I, at least, can’t create with that in mind. Cinema is like vomiting the subconscious in images, trying to eliminate all possible rationality. For example, I write a scene and try not to think too much about what it means. Afterwards, when I am editing, is when I start to intellectualize. But, more than anything, I am looking for the sensuousness of the ideas that come to mind.

Escobar. Do you belong to the generation that was going to be the New Man?

Coyula. Most of us, when we were teenagers and we realized that Cuba would not be a utopia, we became critical of any political system, be it socialism or capitalism. On the other hand, for creativity I think it was good because this position of distance and of criticizing everything is very important when it comes time to create.

“The question is: it’s Fidel Castro, so what? In all societies of the world the rulers serve as an inspiration for artists.”

Escobar. What do you think about the censorship of the work The King is Dying by Juan Carlos Cremata?

Coyula. Many have criticized the interpretation of the meaning of the work by the National Council of Performing Arts, saying that Fidel Castro was the central character. It does not take a genius to see a play called The King is Dying, in today’s Cuba, refers to Fidel Castro. The question is: it’s Fidel Castro, so what? In all societies of the world the rulers serve as an inspiration for artists.

Utopia would be to achieve a society where the work is on the playbill and everyone could decide whether or not to enter the theater. Including getting up and leaving if they don’t like it and demanding their money back, as happens in other parts of the world.

Escobar. You lived for years in the United States. How is it to return to Cuba?

Coyula. I won two scholarships in the United States, but came and went constantly. The way I live and make films has been the same in any part of the world where I’ve been. For me, the camera becomes an extension of my arm and the computer the place where I do everything. I isolate myself to make my films, and this could be the same in New York as in Havana, I live for that.

Homage to Cuban Architect Mario Coyula / Miguel Coyula

This small video — with English subtitles — is a tribute to Cuban architect Mario Coyula by Eusebio Leal, Havana City Historian. The film was made by Miguel Coyula, the well-known Cuban filmmaker, and Mario’s son.

For the Spanish speakers among you, and others who can enjoy the photos, following is an extract of Mario Coyula’s presentation at the last conference he attended.

You can fund “Blue Heart” at Indigogo… GO NOW! / Miguel Coyula



CLICK HERE TO HELP FUND THE MOVIE!!!!!

Cuba’s Blue Heart courts Indiegogo

5 July, 2013 | By Jeremy Kay

The sci-fi thriller has become the first Cuban project to use the crowd-funding platform as the director and producer launch their fundraising campaign.

Director Miguel Coyula, whose credits include Red Cockroaches and Memories Of Overdevelopment, and Claudia Calvino, who previously produced Juan Of The Dead, have so far raised just under $4,000.

The filmmakers behind Blue Heart (Corazon Azul) have another 14 days in which to reach their goal of $30,000.

The project from Producciones De La 5ta Avenida uses a variety of media including anime, documentary footage, commercials, newscasts and original narrative filmmaking.

Blue Heart takes place within an alternative reality as genetically modified humans use terror tactics to reverse the global order.

“Blue Heart is a film about the individual’s inability to escape its environment, as well a discussion about the violent nature of a revolution and its consequences,” Coyula wrote on Indiegogo.com.

“It is also an exploration of the boundaries of human behavior in a dysfunctional family. This is a foray into a dark future from an uncertain present.”

Blue Heart — You Can Fund It / Miguel Coyula

Commentary by Miguel Coyula starts at about 5 minutes into the video.

The following text is taken from Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site that is supporting Blue Heart. Miguel lives in and works from Cuba.

Here is the link to help fund Blue Heart.

THE FILMMAKER:

Miguel Coyula was born in Havana, Cuba in 1977. His work is focused on blending different genres and formats into new ways of storytelling by exploring digital technology. Always working outside the film industry made his first feature Red Cockroaches (2003), for less than $2,000. The film was described by Variety as “a triumph of technology in the hands of a visionary with know-how…” and went on to gather several awards in the international film festival circuit. In 2009 Coyula was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to develop his next film, Memories of Overdevelopment, a follow-up to the Cuban classic Memorias del Subdesarrollo (1968). The film premiered on Sundance in 2010 and went on to gather 20 awards during its festival tour. The International Film Guide chose it as the best Cuban Film of the year.

DIRECTOR´S STATEMENT:

Blue Heart is a film about the individual’s inability to escape its environment, as well a discussion about the violent nature of a revolution and its consequences. It is also an exploration of the boundaries of human behavior in a dysfunctional family. This is a foray into a dark future from an uncertain present. Continue reading “Blue Heart — You Can Fund It / Miguel Coyula”

I have always been interested in science fiction films that serve as a possibility to explore the strangeness of an alternate reality with specific social and political repercussions that are rooted in real events. This allow for a deeper and more meaningful reflection on the world we live in.

However, political science fiction can incur in a didactic approach. One must never make a film about a subject matter that you love or hate, otherwise it becomes a propaganda film. One must only make the film if you are not convinced 100% in either direction.

Beyond stating ideas with intellectual coolness, the film concentrates on visceral storytelling where atmosphere, and feelings and are the most immediate focus.

The story uses several elements from transmedia storytelling, where the narrative flows in a variety of formats, which include fiction from a variety of genres, newscasts, animation, web-browsing, commercials, documentary. I intend to use the digital medium to full advantage by manipulating every single image. The goal is to work the smallest details, which on a low budget becomes difficult to manage on sets. An open mind to use the world that surrounds you and find a way to weave it into your narrative is a priceless advantage of independent filmmaking. For example the Occupy Wall Street was a real event; which was adapted to the narrative of the film by inserting actors in a documentary environment, plus heavy manipulation of the images and green screen to achieve the right mood.

THE STORY:

Dr. Nicholas Fredersen faces a difficult situation after his Human Genetic Engineering project at DNA21 comes to a full stop when the practice is declared illegal in the United States. However Octogenarian leader Fidel Castro, with the aid of Chinese money sets out to build a superior New Man that will transform the crumbling Cuban Socialist system into a model society. A few years later Cuba is ravaged by pollution and acid rains, becoming economically dependent on Chinese Investments of ever-growing oil drilling in the deep seas. Inheriting the worse of communism and capitalism, the country has become a corrupt dystopia on permanent crisis. The New Men turn out to be powerful but uncontrollable and dysfunctional in several ways. Outcasts of the system that created them, they set out to destroy the very fabric of society with devastating consequences. When the US government discovers that Dr. Nicholas Fredersen has been collaborating with the Cuban government in this enterprise. Tensions between the two countries begin to complicate.

This is the world Tomás lives in. He is a widowed, middle aged photo-journalist who lives with his teenage son David, an introverted teenager who escapes into the alternative reality of his drawings. One day, while taking pictures in ruins, Tomás finds Elena, an enigmatic young woman who casts a spell on him. He takes her home and this creates initial frictions with David, who later grows equally fascinated by her. A triangle develops as the tensions between the three characters escalate, in parallel to the national crisis. Gradually they both connect and explode as Elena might be linked with the terrorist group.

RISKS AND CHALLENGES:

We have most of the cast in place and ready to go. A science fiction film of this scale on such a budget is a thrill of a challenge and like any other great adventure, a must do for me. The focus is to complete principal photography within 3-4months of shooting. The rest will be all up to the post-production time. I sometimes take a long time to complete editing, but I have always completed every film project I have undertaken because of patience and obsessive tenacity: Two things to make up for the lack of a larger budget. Time is essential to create a solid film.