On January 25, 2007, critic and achiever Enrique Colina took part in the interchange between Cuban intellectuals which ended up being known as the “e-mail wars.” I use the word interchange in a calculated way because I don’t think what happened was a true debate. If we discount the declaration issued by the Secretariat of the Union of Writers and Artist of Cuba, who have the greatest responsibility for what happened, we find that they did not express their opinion, but continued to exercise their control over the national culture. Or better yet, over some of the creators and the media supporting the socialization of such culture. Much has been written about such an interesting episode, and it is possible that, in a few years, new assessments may present its true significance within the dynamic national culture of the still young XXI century.
In his extensive and courageous message, Enrique Colina intertwines personal experiences lived -or suffered- during the thirty-plus years that his program, “24 per Second”, aired; ideas about the relationships between creators and political leaders, and brief stories about Cuban movies that generated controversy at the time. And as incontestable evidence, he leaves a list of thirty films -not including documentaries- that had never been shown on national TV.
Although I have no basis to support what I state, I want to believe that the subsequent “thawing” of some of those movies was the result of the intellectual exchange and, in particular, of Colina’s list. In the following months, gradually, they showed several of those films on TV, airing “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate), a Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío movie, in May 2007. The showing of this film brought an end to an almost 14-year wait for most Cubans, who can only see movies on TV, and who wished to enjoy a highly promoted, lauded and internationally acclaimed movie, considered a symbol of the new Cuban cinematography of the 90’s.
By wonders of happenstance, exactly two years after Enrique Colina sent his message to Desiderio Navarro, on the night of January 25, on educational channel 2, I saw “Madagascar,” made by Fernando Pérez in 1993, the same year as “Fresa y Chocolate.” I wonder if it would be possible -with the collaboration of some enthusiasts- to update the Colina list and see how many films still remain to be “thawed”. Or to compile the documentaries list, which has also moved along. At least, with the movies, old debts are being settled. When will there come a time for settling the rest?