Iraida Malberti, Director of Children’s Programs Dies at 82

Iraida Malberti with her son Juan Carlos Cremata, a film and theater director. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 June 2018 — The outstanding artist Iraida Malberti Cabrera, born in 1936, died in the early hours of Saturday morning, 17 June, according to the Buenos Días program on Cuban Television.

During her long career she worked in many children’s projects and especially in La Colmenita (The Little Beehive), which her son, Carlos Alberto Cremata, directed. With the help of Juan Carlos Cremata, another of her sons, she co-directed the movie Viva Cuba in 2015. She was also director of the Cuban Television Children’s Ballet, and a screenwriter and director for radio, film and television. continue reading

Among the television series she has directed, among the memorable are Aunt Tata Tells Short StoriesAnd a Butterfly Says… and When I Grow Up. She began working in television in 1960 as choreographer for the program The World of Children, together with Carmen Solar and Edwin Fernández. She earned a doctorate in Pedagogy in 1962.

She was widowed by the explosion in mid-flight of a Cubana de Aviación flight in Barbados, on which her husband Carlos Cremata Trujillo, who worked for the state airline, was traveling.

Malberti was a discreet figure who avoided talking about her work, but in a recent interview she said that she hopes that the projects she participated would be “fun and educational” for the children, especially those who wanted to develop an artistic career. This “is a very attractive job, so dangerously attractive that children find it difficult to start and not continue,” she said.

Her remains will be cremated after a wake at the Calzada and K Street Funeral Home.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Film Director Juan Carlos Cremata Relocates to Miami / 14ymedio

Juan Carlos Cremata in Miami. (Courtesy)
Juan Carlos Cremata in Miami. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 5 November 2016 — The Cuban filmmaker and theater director Juan Carlos Cremata decided to stay in Miami and become “one more exile,” according to the newspaper El Nuevo Herald.

Cremata had been censured for his production of El Rey Se Muere (in English known as “Exit the King” or “The King is Dying”), a work by Eugene Ionesco, staged in Cuba by the El Ingenio theater group in July of 2015, which officials of the Cuban Ministry of Culture took as an allusion to the former president Fidel Castro, and the play was shut down after two performances. continue reading

After the dissolution of the company and the ban on Cremata’s working in film or theater in Cuba, the artist wrote letters of protest that were widely reported in the international media.

Invited by the PEN Club of New York to participate in the World Voices Festival, Cremata, age 54, decided to remain in the United States.

“When I sensed that in Cuba I would not be permitted to even ‘shoot a pea,’” I decided not to return to the island,” the filmmaker told the Miami newspaper.

“Some officials pressured a few friends who were helping me not to do so. Without saying a word it was clear that that they would not let me do anything more,” said Cremata, who said it was clear that he would be confined to “a low profile, which is like a living death.”

“They condemned me to ‘not be’,” he explained.

“And if the Revolutionary slogan is simply ‘homeland or death,’ the most logical and reasonable is to seek a life elsewhere, even it starting from scratch.”

Cremata is planning to initiate an ambitious project called “Memories of Exile,” to be published on social networks. He also plans to bring to life the work El Encarne (The Incarnate), “the only musical written by Virgilio Piñera, which has never been produced.”

“Come what may, I intend to continue making Cuban culture. To reflect truthfully and to speak with propriety about the millions of stories generated in exile,’ said the artist.

Cremata Stages His Play on the Internet / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Cremata

Juan Carlos Cremata with his mother, Iraida Malberti, a television director. (Archive El Nuevo Herald)
Juan Carlos Cremata with his mother, Iraida Malberti, a television director. (Archive El Nuevo Herald)

Juan Carlos Cremata, the censored playwright, is publishing on the web a brief monologue on authoritarianism and censorship. Translator’s note: “The President” in the monologue is not the president of the country, but rather of the State organization in charge of the theater.

The President’s Monologue

By Juan Carlos Cremata

The scene is a meeting room. Only a sofa, some chairs, a large armchair. The president enters talking on her cellphone. She is a woman of an uncertain age, elegantly dressed, but not exaggeratedly so, almost casually. Her gestures are tough, energetic, with a certain diplomatic nuance, but always very tense.

President: No, no. Don’t worry. I’ll call you. Let me get this over with, I can’t take it any more. Yes, yes, the minister knows, of course! He supports me. If not, how could I take this measure? That [with a certain irony] “artist” has gotten too insolent. And it’s time for us to stop him. Wait. [She goes to the door she came in by and orders] Raisa! Tell all the vice presidents I want them here! Right now! And the specialists from every department too! Get Valdes Malo and Liudmila, the advisor, to come too [She continues her cellphone conversation but adds]

Oh, and bring coffee for everyone. But for me a cup of tea, or chamomile. Good and strong. [She explains to the cellphone] I have a terrible headache, ever since we saw that show last Saturday, it hasn’t quit. No, no. Don’t worry. I’ll fix it myself today. [Pause] I’ll call you later. Yes, yes. When you finish the news broadcast, I’ll ring and tell you. And [with the same irony] that “disagreeable character” is coming here. I’ll let you go, everyone has to be here. continue reading

She hangs up and arranges things a little. She puts the armchair across from a specific chair and settles herself comfortably. She looks in a large briefcase, takes out a datebook and opens it to make some notes. The subordinates begin to enter. One in a checked shirt, another in a striped T-shirt, and third in a short-sleeved guayabera. They all carry something to write with and their faces are circumspect. A specialist also enters, with glasses and dyed purple hair. She is a little affected in her mannerisms. Almost ridiculous. Another comes later. He is a young man in a Che T-shirt. He is going to sit in the chair the president put in front of her when a warning from his boss stops him.

President: No, no, no. That chair is for [with the now customary disdain] the “artist.” I want him right in front of me so I can see the expression on his face. Find another chair. [To everyone] And before the “aforementioned” comes through the door, I have to tell you something. [With a certain authoritarianism] I do not want to hear any more comments in the hallway about my potentially leaving this post, because of a rumor, I don’t know where it came from, that I want to go to Venezuela because they are going to make my husband a correspondent for Telesur. Don’t let anyone get that idea. Because I am going to continue here. Leading you. On the front line.

This is the post assigned to me by the Party. If tomorrow it is the Basic Industry job, we’ll go there. But this is what I have to defend today. And I am going to do it until I’m given another mission. Is that clear? Secondly, I will deal with this alone. I want to say, when this “problem person” comes through the door, I am not going to listen to any comments. From any of you! No one needs to add anything. And if there is any doubt, we’ll settle it later. Did you tell Liudmila to come down?

Suddenly the Artist enters. Clearly in a different mood than everyone else present. Not better, not worse, just very distinct, different. As if he does not fit in that environment. The President assumes an even more arrogant air. She rises to welcome him.

President: How’s it going? Come, come. We were expecting you. [She orders from the door] Raisa, don’t disturb us! [She turns and with her hand points to the chair facing her armchair] Please, be so kind as to sit down.

The Artist sits at the center. Everyone looks surprised. The President returns to her place.

President: Liudmila didn’t come down? [Almost without pause] Fine, it doesn’t matter, we’ll start without her. We won’t take too much time on this. [To the Artist] Look, I’ll get straight to the point. It is important that you understand that we greatly respect your work. We have followed you for a long time. Even from when were at the Youth Cadre School… [she stops talking for a moment and changes her attitude] you have done so much, dear heart. So much and for so long. And we have let you do it. But that’s good now. I think now is the time to stop. And you can rest.

I have felt betrayed, mocked and even wounded to the depths of my feelings. Because here we have put our complete faith in the work you were preparing. And suddenly, we saw “it,” what you staged last Saturday. And there was no level of artistic metaphor. The language was poor, direct, reactionary and vulgar. But worst of all is the frank mockery of the historical leader of our Revolution. A complete lack of respect for a person who has done so much for us in our country. And who is now very sick, poor man. And this is something we can’t allow! Not me, not any of us here. [She looks at everyone.] Isn’t that right? [They all nod their heads.]

So, in the name of the freedoms we have achieved over the years for our theater movement, we feel obliged to censor your show. If you want, we will explain it to the actors, we will issue a public note, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter to me that we have spent a lot of money on the production, and on all the publicity. Or that you have spent so many months of rehearsing and so much work in the preparation. As it stands, this production has no possibility of being changed. And it cannot continue. Do you have something to add?

The artist looks at everyone without understanding what he just heard. Some avoid his gaze. They look at the ceiling as if they were looking for answers. He raises his arms a little bit, almost as if he were asking for mercy. And with that he gets up and leaves. Everyone is stunned.

President [speaking to the Che T-shirt): You! Prepare an article with enough theoretical foundation that explains everything that happened, our rationale and that the production is cancelled. [To the one with affected mannerisms] Draft a note for me as soon as possible to publish the ban. Very brief. Without a lot of details. The less explanation the better. [To the striped shirt] Valdes Malo, find the Ministry’s attorney to begin drafting a resolution that dissolves this damn theater group and ends any chance that this “harmful agent” will continue directing theater in this country. I will inform the minister. Don’t lose any time. We have to act quickly. The enemy is lurking here. Among us. On all sides. And we must attack.

They depart quickly and leave her alone. She approaches the stage, triumph on her face. Music with heroic overtones plays but stops abruptly at the insistent ringing of a cellphone. She answers.

President: Tell me, my life [pause]. No, no, everything’s fine [another pause]. Not one word. What could I say? This time we’re done with him! [She changes her tone, sounds more desperate] Have you heard anything from Telesur?

Then her face is flooded with deep frustration. She goes to the door and screams.

President: Raisa, where is the tea, please? I need it yesterday.

She drops crestfallen into the armchair as the curtain falls. Applause without much emotion. They are the same characters forever. The infinite and constant comedy. Such is the theater in today’s Cuba.

Cuban Faces of 2014: Juan Carlos Cremata, Playwright and Filmmaker / 14ymedio

Juan Carlos Cremata with his mother, the television director Iraida Malberti. (Archive El Nuevo Herald)
Juan Carlos Cremata with his mother, the television director Iraida Malberti. (Archive El Nuevo Herald)

14ymedio, Havana, 25 December 2015 — Last July Juan Carlos Cremata’s play Exit the King (also translated in English as: The King is Dying) was censored. A few weeks later Cremata’s contract as a theater director was cancelled and the cultural institutions accused him of making statements to the independent press. His fiercest critics claim that behind his version of Eugene Ionesco’s work was hidden a bitter criticism of Fidel Castro, while the director appealed to artistic freedom and the right of free expression.

The “Cremata case” has exposed not only the intolerance of Cuba’s cultural institutions, but also the complicit silence of many of the island’s intellectuals. However, the group of filmmakers pushing for a new Film Law, has expressed solidarity with the artist, who was born in 1961 and won the Coral Award for his film Nada, among other important awards.

Cremata has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money independently to produce his next films, including a documentary about the censorship he has suffered and the smear campaign against him.

Cuban Film Institute: “There can be no place in our forums for the enemies of the Revolution” / Diario de Cuba

Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) headquarters. (CUBARTE)
Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) headquarters. (CUBARTE)

Diario de Cuba, Havana, 4 December 2015 — A statement from the president of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), published on Thursday on the State website Cubarte put a stop to the recent discussions by filmmakers against censorship, in meetings where, “there can be place for the enemies of the Revolution.”

“The point of view of the debate we have defended has been, is and will be unequivocally Revolutionary,” says the ICAIC directive. “We are working, together with other organizations and institutions, to find a solution to the problems of audiovisual creation, from an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and socialist perspective.”

The communication has been issued within days of the expulsion of activists and independent Cuban journalists in a meeting where a letter of support for theater director Juan Carlos Cremata was drafted. continue reading

The assembly, which was convened under the name “First Forum of Filmmakers on cultural policy and Cuban audiovisual content,” also had on its agenda the reading and discussion of articles on censorship and self-censorship such as those by filmmakers Enrique Colina and Juan Antonio García Borrero.

“On Saturday November 28 we rejected the presence of several mercenaries at the ICAIC Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, where a gathering of filmmakers was held with their institution. None of the organizers had invited them and their presence was a provocation and a premeditated act to use this kind of space as a platform for proselytizing and legitimacy,” the statement said.

The situation became particularly heated when officials from the institution ejected the activist Eliecer Avila, present in the room as a listener to the debate.

“In the face of any attempt to distort the results of the joint work between the filmmakers and the ICAIC, we feel a moral duty to reaffirm our commitment to the Country, the Cuban culture and the Revolution, without which the existence of the ICAIC itself and an educational and cultural work of emancipation would not have been possible, work that is the pride of our people,” the statement continued.

The ICAIC insisted that “it will remain consistent with the cultural policy of the Revolution.”

Cuban Filmmakers Mobilize Against Censorship / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Juan Carlos Cremata during the G20 meeting last Saturday with a T-shirt that says "censored" and with his mouth covered with tape. (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)
Juan Carlos Cremata during the G20 meeting last Saturday with a T-shirt that says “censored” and with his mouth covered with tape. (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.” continue reading

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.”

The agreed on support letter will be published in the blog of Juan Antonio García Borrero and on the Facebook page of Cuban filmmakers.

Site manager’s note: The ICAIC response to this meeting is reported here.

Enrique Colina Comes to the Defense of Cremata Condemns “Censorship and its Demons” / 14ymedio

Juan Carlos Cremata in Mu Tian Yu the Great Wall of China, 2015. (Courtesy of the author)
Juan Carlos Cremata in Mu Tian Yu the Great Wall of China, 2015. (Courtesy of the author)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 30 October 2015 — The critic and filmmaker Enrique Colina came out Thursday in defense of the Cuban director of films and plays Juan Carlos Cremata with a strong message titled On Censorship and Its Demons. In the text, which has been widely circulated by email, he affirms that to remain silent in the face of the censorship suffered by the playwright, “Is to fold before the arbitrary decisions that potentially affect all of us as creators, but also as citizens.”

A reading of Colina’s article was a part of the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the G20 Group, a gathering of numerous artists and producers who demand a law for the cinema. However, Cremata said that the organizers of the meeting determined “it is not the time” to present the article at the meeting this coming Saturday at their headquarters at Fresa y Chocolate in Havana’s Vedado district. continue reading

The letter was made public via email with the consent of the author, who sees no “contradiction in discussing a cinema law which we are fighting for, in which it is explicitly guaranteed that the law supports us to defend the culture against the exercise of a censorship which calls itself revolutionary.”

Colina, a man of great prestige without the Cuban film industry, and the creator of a work that enjoys great popularity, says in the message that accompanied the letter that there is an “ethical deterioration fed by neglect, corruption and the most cowardly and opportunistic faking.” As the only remedy, the director of the films “Neighbors” and “The Marble Cow” calls for a ripping away of “this gag that the bureaucratic bastards want to impose on committed artistic expression.

“After so many years preaching Marxism-Leninism it seems that the custodians of the orthodoxy of silence have forgotten the laws of dialectics

“After so many years preaching Marxism-Leninism seems that the custodians of orthodoxy of silence have forgotten the laws of dialectics,” Colina reflects strongly, adding that “faith and obedience to immobility seem to be the altars of worship at which we convene with their damning anathemas and excommunications,” and, in a colloquial tone concludes: “But no, my friend, we protest.”

“There is already a stagnation in citizen awareness and ideological exhaustion from the spent propagandistic character of the media,” says the letter. “This conduct of intolerance expresses well the weakness and the intellectual and political shabbiness to take on an open and responsible debate,” he added.

“What real constructive sense does an exclusive censorship bring to the debate between those who undertake these artistic activities and are potentially the subjects of this same arbitrariness,” asks the director.

Colina’s support is added to a long list of cultural figures inside and outside Cuba who have denounced the censorship against the play the The King is Dying (also produced in English as: Exit The King), directed by Cremata and closed down last September. Later, the authorities revoked Cremata’s contract as a theater director.

Just a week ago, Cremata announced a fundraising campaign to “continue independent work in film and theater in Cuba,” a gesture that opens the way to self-financing after decades of working with the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry (ICAIC) and the National Council for the Performing Arts.

Plea for Cremata / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Laura German (maid) and Pedro Diaz Ramos (King) in the 'The King is Dying' by Juan Carlos Cremata. (El Ingenio)
Laura German (maid) and Pedro Diaz Ramos (King) in the ‘The King is Dying’ by Juan Carlos Cremata. (El Ingenio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico City, 9 September 2015 – If I were Juan Carlos Cremata’s attorney, in a an eventual appeal to be held in the Chamber of Labor, I would argue the following:

According to one of the whereases in the National Council for Performing Arts’ Resolution No. 10, the reason for canceling the theater production El Ingenio (The Genius) and terminating Juan Carlos Cremata’s contract as a theater director, is that the artist made “intemperate attacks” in the foreign press and social networks against the management of the Theater Center and the National Council of Performing Arts, “who legally represent and sponsor him,” and that those attacks are “incompatible with the social purpose for which the project was created.”

As a lawyer, one could have to argue that the artist’s statements were made in a personal capacity, exercising his legitimate rights and not as a gratuitous attack, but to defend himself against what constituted an attack on his freedom of expression, namely, the suspension of the work, “The King is Dying*.” continue reading

Cremata Expresses an Artist’s Bellyful Against Cultural Repression / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

It should be noted that every day Cuban artists undertake actions on their own accounts corresponding to their needs, their preferences, or from a broad spectrum of their artistic projections and political, religious or philosophical inclinations, which are not contemplated within the social purpose of the institutions that pay for or sponsor their projects.

To accept the obligation that every action undertaken by an artist has to obey the letter of the “social purpose” of one of his or her projects, would be to accept a kind of intellectual slavery in which the painter is prohibited from writing verses or the filmmaker is not permitted to rent rooms in his house, only because such actions are not contemplated in the joyous “social purpose” of a project that has been approved by the institutions that sponsor and represent him.

This action of a legal nature executed against Cremata by the Council for the Performing Arts, itself conflicts with “social purpose” for which this organization was established, because in the text where this purpose is defined it states nowhere that the confidence it has in the artists depends on the degree of coincidence that exists between their propositions and the institution’s interests. (I note that I have never read this text, but I say this here to see if they dare to contradict me and make public such an atrocity.)

Finally, I would like to know if the closing of the theater project El Ingenio leaves the rest of the artistic staff unemployed and what support will be provided to them.

As a lawyer, I quote here as witnesses all those artists who now feel threatened with being ostracized the day it occurs to them to defend themselves for having been censored.

*Translator’s note: This play has also been staged in English in the United States under the title “Exit the King.”

Cultural Authorities Cancel Juan Carlos Cremata’s Contract As A Theater Director / 14ymedio

Theater director Juan Carlos Cremata.
Theater director Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 9 September 2015 — The contract of the director Juan Carlos Cremata has been cancelled by the Cuban cultural authorities, as explained by the author himself on Wednesday via email. Cremata has made public the details of meeting he was called to last Monday at the Havana Theater Center, in which he was told of the Ministry of Culture’s National Council of Performing Arts Resolution No. 10, in which his theater project El Ingenio [The Genius] was canceled and his contract as a theater director was terminated.

In a text entitled Condemned to Eternal Silence, or the Chronicle of an Announced Ordeal, the artist specifies that a decision of this nature means that he is “eliminated from any possibility of doing theater in Cuba.” continue reading

In the body of the resolution it says the director provoked an ethical-professional conflict with the management of the Theatre Center and the National Council for the Performing Arts, who legally represent and sponsor him.” According to the official explanation, Cremata made intemperate attacks on these institutions through the foreign press and social networks, incompatible with the social object for which the above-mentioned project was created, leading to a lack of confidence in the artist, all of which disqualified his projects as institutional interests.”

The authorities resolved to halt project El Ingenio Project, ending its sponsorship by the Theater Center. Furthermore, they added, the employment contract in the artistic branch of the Director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, will be terminated.”

In light of this opinion, the artist states, “Thus is censorship and the exercise of ‘freedom of expression’ legally consolidated in our country, in the 21st century.”

Cremata adds that, The measure was taken without consultation with the National Theater Awards or with other artist guilds. It was a simple vendetta. A calculated summary execution.”

The document is signed only by Marvin Yaquis, director of the Theater Center as employer of the artist, although Cremata identifies as directly responsible Gisela Gonzalez, president of the National Council for the Performing Arts.

“And so there is no mercy for those who think differently. “To the wall*” for those of us who refuse to remain silent. What will be the next step to finish burying me?” asks the film and theater director.

Condemned to Eternal Silence, or the Chronicle of an Announced Ordeal / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio biggerOpen Letter from Juan Carlos Cremata, Havana, 9 September 2015


Dear Friends:

On the morning of Monday, September 7, I was summoned to a meeting at the Theater Center of Havana to have communicated to me Resolution No. 10 (the corresponding document is attached) of the Ministry of Culture, the National Council for the Performing Arts and the Theater Centre of Havana itself, where our theater project El Ingenio [The Genius] is cancelled and my contract is a theater director is terminated.

It also means: I am eliminated from any possibility of doing theater in Cuba.

For those who do not have the calm to read the entire document, here is a summary in the style of trending topic or news highlight: continue reading

WHEREAS: In the months of July and August 2015, the theater director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, who directs the El Ingenio Project provoked an ethical-professional conflict with the management of the Theatre Center and the National Council for the Performing Arts, who legally represent and sponsor him, by undertaking intemperate attacks on these institutions through the foreign press and social networks, incompatible with the social object for which the above-mentioned project was created, leading to a lack of confidence in the artist, all of which disqualified his projects as institutional interests.

And further (…)


FIRST:  The Project El Ingenio, given its representation by the Theater Center’s performing branch, will be halted.

SECOND: By way of the necessary document, the employment contract in the artistic branch of the Director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, will be terminated.

Thus is censorship and the exercise of “freedom of expression” legally consolidated in our country, in the 21st century.

The measure was taken without consultation with the National Theater Awards or with other artist guilds. It was a simple vendetta. A calculated summary execution.

And so there is no mercy for those who think differently. “To the wall*” for those of us who refuse to remain silent.

It is a sad time and space in which we have had to live.

What will be the next step to finish burying me?

Draw your own conclusions.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The outrageous document is signed only by the Director of the Theatre Center in his role as an employer, but everything was done to cravenly avoid criticism of the real person responsible for this offense: Mrs. Gisela Gonzalez, president of the National Council of Performing Arts. The Director of the Theater Center, Marvin Yaquis even expressed his deep regret at having to do something he did not like, which he was forced to do.

Please, do not blame him.

He is only the spokesman for the ignominy, the one who carries out the sentence of death “in life” to which I have been condemned.

*Translator’s note: Paredón! – meaning “to the execution wall” – was the infamous shout from the crowds at the show trials against its “enemies” with which the Castro regime inaugurated its taking power in 1959.

Condemn Us, It Does Not Matter: Art Will Absorb Us* / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Cremata

The play 'The King Dies,' directed by Juan Carlos Cremata. (Havana Times)
The play ‘The King Dies,’ directed by Juan Carlos Cremata. (Havana Times)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Cremata, Havana, 10 July 2015 — First of all, I apologize this time for speaking in the first person. I have always thought, like Garcia Marquez, that what I have tried to say is found in my work. And instead, it enriches me, much more, to hear the diverse interpretations that emerge about what, at times, we have done with pure artistic or professional intuition, supported, of course, in a wealth of collective proposals that emerge with the creation of the same. I defend, above all, a plurality of readings in what I pursue or dream about, because, in some way, it encourages and obsesses me as artist, thinker and human being.

I am also very fond of Pablo Picasso’s idea: “rather than search, find” on the path to art. Thus, it excites me, but much more, the act of aesthetic genesis itself, far beyond the finished work. Also, I always try, even at the abuse of the plural of modesty, contrasting it to a prolonged and ever more frequent and excessive “I” that is now habitual. Abundant, in the discourses that for so long have flooded every branch of thinking in our country, above all in criticism. And especially in politics.

But I am compelled to answer some “hasty” notes (also induced, commanded and/or dictated, which explains in some way their “precipitation”) regarding the [Havana] premier, on 4 July, of Eugene Ionesco’s play The King is Dying**, by our collective, El Ingenio.

Dear Andy Arencibia Concepción (with a copy to everyone who feels themselves alluded to):

I applaud your seriousness in researching my work and I admire the respect that you profess to me, despite the fact that, evidently, you fight, like the rest of your operators, in favor of maintaining intact your working life, or what is called, “looking after your job.” I understand. continue reading

If I remember correctly, you were also at the meeting where I was called in front of the “top brass” of the National Council for the Performing Arts to communicate to me the suspension of the season. And now I have no doubt that many of the views expressed in the letter respond in a personal way to the signals, although with harsher epithets such as “treason” and “political pamphlet,” from Gisela Gonzalez herself, who serves as President of Theater Arts in Cuba.

I do not know which came first. If it was hers or yours.

Raul could say it in his speech, but the theater, no. We were not authorized to expose it. Raul is applauded of course. Who dares to contradict him?

But either way, its deep and accelerated study comes to explain a little more the absurd and unintelligible initial note, suddenly appearing in CUBARTE, about the changes in programming at the Tito Junco Hall of the Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center, which did nothing more than hide a blatant censorship.

However you are smarter and saner. Your analysis is respectable, although conditioned.

And I am, believe me, very grateful to the attempt to elucidate a little all the indecipherable nebula that we try to stage. Your praise is also gratifying, your eulogies and superlatives, which I humbly hope to deserve.

However, it is likewise a little unfair and inexact, although entirely within your rights as a critic – not as a researcher – to offer an opinion in such a closed and categorical way about an artistic phenomenon, taking into account, only, your work as a screener.

In Art, as in every other subjective display, or even in medicine that is backed by science, that which could be good for you (all of you) not necessarily because it is for others.

Or for us, the others.

If any of you had attended the play on Sunday, you would have found another moment that, although essentially the same, wasn’t that staged on Saturday. I often tell my friends that it is better to attend the last evenings, when the actors and technicians have already tested, and even more savored, an experience that is enriched and transformed with each delivery.

Especially when the work staged by our collective depends heavily on the interaction with the audience to which your commentary refers. And where, in addition to the “mockery” to which you (or all of you) alluded to, there is a declared intention to rescue a very Cuban form of theater, quasi-lost or misplaced-censored-by-force-for-more-than-50-years, but that characterized the entire Cuban vernacular theater with the regular practice of political satire as a commentary on what happens in our country.

Shameless, excessive, irreverent (which is not the same is disrespectful), iconoclastic, rebellious, and sometimes even vulgar or profane, which you do not know, floods our countryside and cities. And it seems to be the language generated by the “New Man” that is forged in this imprecise society imposed on us.

Our intent with this staging was to talk about the resistance to change. Scathing obstinacy that today is made manifest again with the erratic decision of the Council itself

The theater is a live event, as is well known.

It is catharsis, shock, tremor and disturbance, above all in its relationship to the spectator. Be he for or against. Worse is to go to a play and return as if one had never gone. Is this what you want? Gallant and constant praise? A nice musical, naïve and inoffensive. The critique of what is authorized? The reinterpretation of our history, without questioning the present and much less the future? Independence restricted? The freedom of the ration book?

Because the ration coupon frees me? How much will this month’s emancipation cost me?

They are selling free will! Run! Run! They’re almost out of it!

We could point out a few years ago the same Council for Performing Arts, protected by a supposed “respect for the change in programming,” suppressed the huge success that we were having with our staging of the Rogelio Orizondo’s Le hijastra (The Stepdaughter) – without our even having seen much of them – and dealing with the disproportionate, frustrating and malicious comments that they immediately silenced when, a few months later, Raul Castro himself noted the same approach of “social indisciplines” with which all of Cuba is flooded.

Raul could say it in his speech, but the theater, no.

We were not authorized to expose it.

Raul is applauded of course. Who dares to contradict him?

We were condemned to exile in the same room to which we return, after four years, to again experiment, today with the decision to end our proposal, once again with the same punishment, the exact penalty, with the identical penance.

And, even worse.

We gave 14 performances of The Stepdaughter.

For The King Dies, we could only offer two.

It is the third try. And the third time is lucky.

Previously an onerous scandal was also unleashed with the presentation of El Frigidaire (Le Frigo) by Copi.

But this time they were definitive.

The affront to power is now unbridgeable.

And the barrier definitively raised, saying: Not one more, this far and no further They shall not pass!

They have gone too far.

Down with the embarrassment! Up with the stain!

At the same time, I want to add to the examples of theater collectives, which you (all of you) point to as worthy and paradigmatic (and to which you should undoubtedly also have added the commendable excellence of the Argos Theater, Theater de las Estaciones, Theater de la Luna or Theater Tuyo, among other very few examples), those which could contrast the work of more than a dozen collectives, where indeed no artistic metaphor or poetry flourishes. Where the proposal goes toward that radiant poverty of which not so long ago one of our media leaders boasted.

What about the profusion of revolting and senseless events whose only ambition is the sale of our art abroad?

Or the hundreds of political lampoons that we have had to shoot every day for so many years live and on television?

Or the thousands of public events where money is wasted by the boatload and bad taste is encouraged, the ineffectiveness, the falsehood and the injustice?

Recently an admired and recognized Cuban writer, also harassed from time to time, noted how little educated we Cubans have been in these times of the management, the habit, the cult of tolerance.

Most importantly – and I know you will agree with me, although feeling it in secrecy and not able to express its depth – the National Arts Council has every right to make known its differences, disagreements and decisions against a specific staging in its jurisdiction.

The abuse of an absolute power that holds, sustains and exposes the cruel exercise of an infamous censorship

But that does not exclude the qualifier of an immoral, medieval and incomprehensible measure, the abuse of an absolute power that holds, sustains and exposes the cruel exercise of an infamous censorship.

I shut you up to make myself heard.

Me. Me. And me.

And to not hear anything else.

Nor anyone else.

Typical behavior in the entire reign, dictatorial regime, or simply despotism.

Nepotism exemplified. Manifest and brazen arbitrariness.

Where is the possibility that others express opinions?

Why, and who, arrogates to himself the right to decide what others must think, propose or feel?

What right does anyone have to dictate the thinking of everyone?

These are other times, esteemed colleague.

A pandemic of freedom is flooding our senses.

If anyone disagrees with what we do, there will never be anything worse than condemnation and the penalty of silence, the penance of ostracism, the expiation of ignorance and the elimination, at a single blow, our freedom of artistic expression, our right to be wrong, our will and perennial vocation to argue, and even dissent, which doesn’t mean, although it could be so, to be against.

Our intent with this staging was to talk about the resistance to change. Scathing obstinacy that today is made manifest again with the erratic decision of the Council itself.

And it is not absolute and unconditional truth that we tried to make reference to a monarch, a chief, or any leader. Indeed, we are consciously trying to avoid it, although we knew full well that the sickly reading of these days would go, obligatorily, in that direction.

In the name of “national-socialism” we are restricted, repressed, sanctioned, gagged, trampled and hidden. This is embracing fascism. Pure. Absolute.

The actor who played King Eggplant the First studied the gestures of the great French comedian Loius de Funes, rather than delving into the nearer characters of our everyday lives.

You (all of you) could say and allege what you want. In addition, you can do it, because you have all the media under your control to disseminate it. They read the play and assumed the risk. They neglected the delivery.

But what is neither wise nor judicious, and it runs counter to the century in which we live, is the useless spell to silence others.

To decree and dictate the persistent and stubborn silence.

There is no right.

It is only imposed by force.

And where there is force reason pales.

It is helplessness facing the terror.

The bitter impotence of the offense.

The dream orphaned

The truth mocked.

Insisting on the error to drown in it.

In the name of “national-socialism” we are restricted, repressed, sanctioned, gagged, trampled and hidden. This is embracing fascism. Pure. Absolute and integral. The same as burning books and stigmatizing races, sexes, colors and even thoughts and ways of being. And it is also apartheid.

Like Fassbinder says, “Fear devours their souls.”

Nor is your observation about my most recent film work accurate, using precisely the example of Crematorium 1: in short… the evil, which is a project whipped by others, slyly veiled, or at least not officially released, and it has been appreciated only though this legalized and incoherent piracy that senselessly feeds our State.

That is, not even in the cinema are my “politically incorrect” steps well regarded by the nomenklatura, by the opportunistic, dull and mediocre bureaucracy that supports authority these days.

I am very clear-sighted and have learned since I was born that to be a revolutionary is NOT to be obedient nor to abide by the letter of everything that comes from “above.” That is being a sheep. That is: it is to be sheeplike.

From higher up come the things of God and you people disregard them.

He forgives you.

Our reason for being is to create. And we continue to do it. Although you would try to cut our wings. You can never crush thought.

Your duty (the duty of all of you) has been founded in mutilating, suspending, silencing, stopping, paralyzing, stalling, limiting, hindering, delaying, denying, and even unto death.

Our nation is its culture and our nationality as well.

Long live art!

The rest is cheap, hollow politicking.

And enough of hypocrisies, that you (all of you) do not feel.

Translator’s notes:

*The title is play on words of Fidel Castro’s defense in his trial for the Moncada Attack where he wrote: “Condemn me, history will absolve me.”

** The play has been staged in the United States under the name “Exit the King”