14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 21 May 2016 – Three years after the first meeting of the G20, a group of Cuban filmmakers who are demanding a Film Law, the group continues to wait for an institutional response that addresses their demands. This week a letter was made public reaffirming their demands for greater recognition for filmmakers and the legalization of independent productions, among other benefits.
Ignored by the official media and frowned upon by the authorities who should be responding to these demands, the group has also been transformed over its three years of existence. Exhausted, worn out and with the responsibility of other commitments, a group that formerly contained 22 names now has only eight members.
However, those who remain in the independent group believe that only united can they achieve the objective of having filmmakers’ expectations valued, and address everyone’s proposals in a practical way,” says the letter. They see that in this way they will be able to “confront the tasks ahead quickly, efficiently and responsibly.”
The artists make it clear that the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) should not disappear, but rather be transformed. The group recognizes the institution as the “rector of the film industry in the country” but clarifies that by saying that “the ICAIC is all of us.”
The highlight of their demands is the creation of a new Film Law to give a “cultural and legal coherence to the film and audiovisual system in the country.”
In earlier statements the filmmakers stressed the urgency of seeking better management and regulation of financial relations, banking and taxes for their work in a “transparent and efficient” way, in a context in which producers who not tied to the ICAIC now work without legal or institutional support.
The filmmakers see as a ray of hope the use of the word “cinema” in one of the new Guidelines emerging from the 7th Communist Party Congress held earlier this year. In addition, comments on the concept of new forms of economic management, made by Raul Castro at the Party Congress, have fueled hopes that audiovisual creators could be included.
The document that has circulated this week by email summarizes the events of the past three years and says that the effort has both “found support and run into misunderstandings.” The objectives that led to the creation of the G20 “have not been realized,” note the authors of the letter.
At the head of the mission to overcome misunderstandings and multiply support around the demands of filmmakers, are Manuel Perez Paredes and Fernando Perez—both winners of the National Film Award—Jorge Luis Sánchez, Magda González Grau, Dean Luis Reyes, Pedro Luis Rodriguez, Mijaíl Rodriguez and, although his name does not initially appear as a signatory of the letter, the filmmaker Enrique (Kiki) Álvarez.
The group emphasizes in its missive that it will continue “faithful to its founding objectives.” It also says that it will revisit the “meetings and exchanges among artists of three generations,” which it qualifies as “one of the most legitimate conquests of these three years.” These meetings take place in the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center in Havana.
The current legislation on cinema dates from 1959, when the ICAIC was founded, but the emergence of new technologies, the appearance of independent producers and the economic problems being experienced by the ICAIC, along with the notorious cases of institutional censorship, have exposed cracks in the regulations.
“The only chance for Cuban cinema to overcome its current ethical and aesthetic poverty is a Film Law with all and for the good of all*,” director Kiki Alvarez told 14ymedio. “The rest, the circumstantial debates, are detours, delays and we never know anymore who favors them,” he added.
*Translator’s note: A quote from José Martí repeated without cease by the Castros.