14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 30 November 2015 – The G20 group of filmmakers voted unanimously at a meeting on Saturday in favor of supporting the filmmaker and playwright Juan Carlos Cremata by writing a letter denouncing the censorship of his work and the smear campaign against him.
The meeting had its most tense moment when an official of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) tried to expel from the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, activist Eliecer Avila of Somos+, who had come in response to an invitation to the public.
Near the end of the day, just before the vote, ICAIC director Roberto Smith and another official of the institute, Ramon Samada, tried to eject the leader of Somos+, saying that he was a “counterrevolutionary.” Several filmmakers argued that the meeting was “open to the public” to which Samada replied: “Yes, but not to counterrevolutionaries.”
The critic Enrique Colina, who participated as a panelist at the event by reading his text On Censorship and its Demons, settled the incident saying that no one has the power to expel any of those present, “much less now,” arguing that they were creating a problem different from that that was being discussed.
Smith had read some pages before the beginning of the comments where he admonished them to “continue defending ICAIC as a space for debate and more complex ideas, open to a plurality of opinions.” The ICAIC director recognized right there that despite the fact that all those present, “live in the same reality, we have different points of view, contradictory and antagonistic.”
The discussion was moderated by Ernesto Daranas, director of the award winning film Conduct, and the narrator, essayist and scriptwriter Arturo Arango. After them, the three invited panelists spoke. Colina read his text and Arango read the article Phenomenology of Self-censorship in Cuba by the second speaker, Juan Antonio García Borrero, who was not able to get there from Camagüey. The third panelist was the journalist Dean Luis Reyes, host of the television program Sequence.
One of the topics discussed was the crisis in the documentary genre in Cuba. Dean Luis Reyes discussed The Train on the Northern Line, which “aspires to reveal the crisis of the Cuban people,” and the shooting of which “was affected by police and State Security intervention.” Despite, he explained, their having worked with “the necessary permits, the filmmakers had to suffer harassment and even threats.”
The filmmaker Jorge Luis Sanchez recalled the ICAIC “that no longer exists” and spoke of the presence in the media of a “blind triumphalism” and “persistent myopia of blaming individuals for the inefficiencies of the system.” Sanchez launched a call to “not be scandalized any more by works of art, but by the crazy design of reality,” and commented on the difficult and complex “reality of a country where to survive you have to turn to illegalities because the institutions almost never work well.”
For his part, the critic and professor Gustavo Arcos got straight to the point: “If we have censored films and if ICAIC participates in that censorship, we have to begin to define it.” Arcos understood that it is nonsense to have discussions “without having them in front of the people who are responsible for this issue,” and stressed the importance of having a counterpart so that the dialog does not become stagnant.
Arcos asked the authorities to explain why they consider the film they censor is “against the Revolution.” After admitting that, “we all have been too patient, waiting,” he proposed moving to implement a “a Plan B of strong actions.”
The filmmaker Belkis Vega recounted her long journey to run into the person who had censored her on military aid to Angola. She denounced the silence of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) and how film meetings were manipulated in the last congress to create a “candidacy commission” that censored names approved by the meetings and imposed others that no one had proposed.
Vega confessed to being frightened by the smear campaign against Cremata and what looks like a “witch hunt.” She also called attention to those who attack him in forums and through articles under a pseudonym and who have information they could only have gotten “through State Security.”
The playwright Norge Espinosa took the floor to speak about his “closeness to the issue of Cremata” and to everything that this case that “has been unleashed on the rest of the Cuban theater.” Espinosa recalled the “little war of e-mails” in 2007, which led to a series of meetings, but nothing came out in the press about the meetings of intellectuals.
He also claimed that what happened to Cremata, the director of Nada (Nothing), who on Saturday was wearing a shirt with the word censored across the chest, has “rocked the Cuban scene in recent weeks.” Espinosa regretted that this has found “no support” in the “theater movement, which is represented by UNEAC and the Council of the Performing Arts,” but said that this case creates a “precedent” and expressed his joy that “Cuban filmmakers are gathering in a way that people of the theater didn’t know how to do.”
Colina took the floor again to insist that in the case of Cremata something had to be done, “something concrete, a statement of protest” as a group and “put it in the media” because “we are all Cremata.”
Site manager’s note: The ICAIC response to this meeting is reported here.