A Digital Archive in the Diaspora Will Preserve Cuban Cinema

Frame of Plantados [Planted], by Lilo Vilaplana. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 11 October 2022 — Classics of Cuban exile cinema such as Conducta impropio [Improper Conduct] (1983), La ciudad perdida [The Lost City] (2005) and Plantados [Planted] (2021) will be collected on October 20 in the Archive of Cuban Diáspora Cinema, a project co-directed by academic Santiago Juan-Navarro and filmmaker Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida.

This initiative seeks to organize in the public repository the formidable creative collection of the filmmakers who left the Island in recent decades, and whose work addresses the issues of alienation, politics, resistance and Cuban history from 1959.

A press release from the organizers announces the launch of the project at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, in Miami,at 7:00 p.m on October 20, the day in which Cuban culture is celebrated.

During the ceremony, the Cuban Diaspora Film Archive prize will be awarded to filmmaker Orlando Jiménez Leal, known, among other things, for having filmed together with Sabá Cabrera the short documentary PM, whose censorship initiated the cultural policy controversies of the Revolution. That same night, the film Improper Conduct will also be shown, by the director himself.

“By collecting and archiving materials related to these filmmakers, the project seeks to lay the foundations for a new history of Cuban cinema that includes the extensive audiovisual production done outside Cuba,” says the statement, which presents the character of the Archive as a “research project.”

The Archive will integrate five projects. The first, Filmmaker, groups the data of Cuban filmmakers in exile and, for the moment, has names such as Néstor Almendros, Nicolás Guillén Landrián, Gustavo Pérez and Lilo Vilaplana.

With Forum, a biennial symposium, and FESTin, a traveling exhibition, the Archive will enrich its film collection. Cubafile will take care of the cinema that takes place on the Island, and the total progress of the initiative will be recorded by CDfAReview, a magazine specialized in Cuban cinema.

In addition, awards and diplomas will be awarded on an annual basis, which will motivate new creation and establish the trajectory of notable filmmakers.

The Archive has the support of the International University of Florida (FIU), the Provost Office, the Wolfsonian Laboratory for Public Humanities, the Department of Modern Languages of the FIU, the Cuban Research Institute (CRI), the Kimberly Green Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACC) and the CasaCuba cultural space.

“For years there’s  been a complaint that the universities don’t do enough to publicize Cuban reality,” say Juan-Navarro and Jiménez-Almeida. “The Cuban Diaspora Film Archive is committed to changing that situation.”

In addition to an extraordinary conservation project, the Archive of Cuban Diaphanous Cinema becomes the only academic initiative, inside and outside the Island, that challenges the unilateral discourse of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

This organization systematically censured and cancelled the films of several filmmakers, who today make up the staff of the Archive. From its origin, ICAIC was one of the most severe ideological bastions of the Revolution, under the command of its president, Alfredo Guevara.

Juan-Navarro and Jiménez-Almeida are reacting against that ideological and archival monopoly by focusing on their project to rescue and systematize the Cuban visual legacy in exile.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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