14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 19 December 2016 – The New Latin American Film Festival ended as it began: marked by censorship. The exclusion of the film Santa y Andres stained the opening of Havana’s main cinematographic event with gray, and spectators were also unable to see the film Hands of Stone as punishment for the solidarity of its director, Jonathan Jakubowicz, with Cuban director Carlos Lechuga.
The film, based on the life of Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, was initially included among the feature films that would be shown in the Festival Awards section, but it was never screened. The event’s organizers dropped contact with its director after learning of his condemnation of the censorship of Lechuga, says the Venezuelan artist.
Days before the beginning of the Festival, Jakubowicz spoke by telephone with the directors of Santa y Andres in order to assess the possibility of withdrawing his film from screening in the competition as a condemnation of censorship. After the publication of an interview with Jakubowicz in 14ymedio on December 7, the Festival’s organizers stopped writing him. “Not only with respect to the copy of the film, but about my attendance,” he says.
“As the death of Fidel Castro was announced the next day, I thought that was why, but they never wrote again. I suppose they preferred to avoid an uncomfortable situation with me in Havana, at a time of such tension for the island,” reflects the prestigious director.
For viewers who sought explanations for the absence of Hands of Stone, the Festival organization contended that the director “never sent the exhibition copy.” Although the director was planning to travel to Havana, he could not bring it personally either without confirming the trip after getting no answer from the event organization.
In the interview published by this newspaper, Jakubowicz explained that he had thought about withdrawing his film from the billing because he was afraid of becoming “that awful artist figure who supports the repressor, a frequent figure in our countries and one who has done a lot of harm to our peoples.”
However, after speaking with Lechuga and his wife, he learned that “the Festival is one of the Island’s few windows looking to the world outside,” and he decided to keep the film in the festival. But when it came time to organize sending the copy to Havana, the event organizers were silent.
“It is a shame for the Cuban public who wanted to see the film. But fine, in the end all of Cuba saw Express Kidnapping, and it is forbidden, too. Art always reaches those whom it has to reach,” Jakubowicz reflects.
Nevertheless, the director thanks the “festival for the initial invitation” and wishes it “much luck in its continued struggle to bring light to Havana’s theaters. There will be better times. The winds of changes are blowing strong and are inevitable, in Cuba as well as in Venezuela,” he asserts.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel