Cuban State Security Blockades a Play in El Círculo Gallery (Updated)

The creators of the play Enemies of the People denounce that State Security called the piece “subversive” without knowing anything about it. (@liavillares)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 November 2017 – Cuban State Security managed to limit attendance to just two people to last night’s premiere play The Enemies of the People. The police cordon set up around the El Círculo gallery in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, where the play was going to be performed, worked as a method of pressure to intimidate would-be audience members.

Activist Lía Villares, owner of the house that that provides the premises for the theater, related via twitter what happened when members of the political police were stationed in the vicinity of the Villares’s house and pressured the numerous guests to not enter. “Everything that happened yesterday in the presence of witnesses and neighbors demonstrates the agonizing situation of cultural rights and freedom of expression in Cuba,” denounced Villares. continue reading

Despite the pressures, the activist said that actress “Lynn Cruz could not have given a better performance.”

The work, interpreted by Cruz and directed by filmmaker Miguel Coyula, offers “a timely vision of Cuban society subjected to a dictatorship,” explain its organizers.

Cruz reincarnates Charlotte Corday, a famous character of the French Revolution and who murdered Jean-Paul Marat. On this occasion, however, instead of Marat, Fidel Castro is the target of her action.

In her Twitter account Lia Villares said that the staging “almost starred the henchmen of Section 21,” the Department of State Security that deals with surveillance against opponents. “They did not allow anyone to enter” the El Círculo Gallery, lamented the activist.

The piece also has an incognito character, played by the musician Gorki Águila who delivers an emotional reading of the list of names of the 41 victims of the 13 Tugboat 13 de Marzo, sunk in July 1994 by four official boats that used water cannons to attack the boat on which the victims were trying to flee the country.

The seats were empty and photographed to denounce the absence of the audience who felt pressured and left without seeing the work. (14ymedio)

Those killed in the tugboat incident were between the ages of 6 months and 50 years. After a week in which the official media silenced what happened, Fidel Castro described the performance of the crews of the boats that attacked the tugboat as a “truly patriotic effort.”

The independent El Círculo gallery is a frequent target of police operations. Last April, a large deployment of troops prevented the public from attending the screening of the documentary Nadie (Nobody) directed by Coyula, which presents the life of the poet Rafael Alcides, censored in the official publications.


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Cuban State Security and Police Prevent Screening of Independent Film in Havana

Actress Lynn Cruz in a scene from ‘Nadie’ (Nobody)

Statement from Miguel Coyula and Lynn Cruz

15 April 2017, 8:00 PM, Havana: Cuban State Security and Police blocked the street leading to the Gallery El Circulo in Havana in order to prevent the audience from attending the screening of Miguel Coyula’s independent film Nadie, which depicts  the story of the Cuban Revolution through the eyes of Cuban Poet Rafael Alcides. On January 29th the film won the Best Documentary award during its world Premiere at the Global Film Festival in Santo Domingo.

We were asked for our IDs, then crossed checked them with a list they had and proceeded to tell us we were not allowed to enter the block. We asked for the reason and they said it was confidential.

Later we found that over 40 people were turned back as well. We denounce censorship in its full scale, as it is the role of artists to create, exhibit and defend their creation.  It’s important for any independent filmmaker to express not only on the screen, but also in life, since life inevitably is reflected in art.


Miguel Coyula (director) and Lynn Cruz (actress)

Miguel Coyula

State Security Prevents Screening Of Miguel Coyula’s Documentary ‘Nadie’

Note: The video above is not subtitled but the excerpts from Nadie here are subtitled.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 16 April 2017 – Cuba’s State Security and the National Revolutionary Police surrounded the independent gallery El Círculo to prevent this Saturday’s screening of the documentary Nadie (Nobody), directed by Miguel Coyula and featuring the censored poet and writer Rafael Alcides.

The filmmaker and his wife, actress Lynn Cruz, were intercepted by police at the corner of 13th and 10th Streets in Havana’s Vedado district. Starting several hours earlier the agents had closed the street to vehicles and pedestrians, according to a statement made from the location to 14ymedio.

Cruz and Coyula point out that without any reason and with “only a vague argument” the operation was carried out in the area, and the police asked for their IDs and didn’t let them pass. Only “four Spanish diplomats” managed to reach the gallery, according to Lia Villares, curator of El Circulo. continue reading

On 29 January Nadie received the Award for the Best Documentary during its international premier in the Dominican Global Film Festival.

“A group of uniformed men and others in civilian clothes advanced toward us. One of them took out a piece of paper with a list and compared our names with those written there”

“A group of uniformed men and others in civilian clothes advanced toward us. One of them took out a piece of paper with a list and compared our names with those written there,” said Coyula and Cruz describing the moment when the police blocked their access to the site where the documentary was going to be shown.

Cruz also denounced that State Security warned several of the invited guests that the operation was being carried out to “save” them from the “counterrevolutionaries” who had “deceptively” issued invitations to the screening.

“As authors of the work, we denounce the censorship that the government exercises because this time it went beyond the institution,” said Coyula.

“Art is also about the citizen’s right to share and discuss a film. Intellectuals and artists need to take a firm stand and defend their right to perform and display critical works, without compromise, because the attitude that that they take in life ends us being reflected in their work,” he added, speaking to 14ymedio.

Screen shot of the documentary Nadie with Rafael Alcides.

Following the police deployment that prevented access to the gallery, the filmmaker invited several friends to his home where he projected the documentary. Among the guests was Michel Matos, director of Matraka Productions, who is strongly criticized by officialdom.

The Círculo had also announced a Saturday screening of Carlos Lechuga’s film, Santa and Andrés, but the film’s producer, Claudia Calviño, refused to allow the projection and called the gesture an “illegality” saying “this and other activities are outside the traditional marketing framework.”

Lía Villares circulated an email on Sunday in which she defined the “political” character of the gallery that seeks to “promote a culture that continues to be censored despite international awareness and witnesses.” The activist also points out that it is in Cuba that artists have “a moral responsibility to the present and future.”

Rafael Alcides Close Up / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 June 2016 — Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula participated in the New Media Film Festival of Los Angeles with the seventh chapter of his series Rafael Alcides. The short film was part of a more than two-hour interview with with the well-known poet and writer, addressing topics such as art, beauty and Cuba past and present.

Filmed in Havana, with a minimalist presentation, in this seventh installment the actress Lynn Cruz recites the poem The Stranger, which gives its title to the chapter, in a moving and unadorned interpretation that salvages the lyrical work of an author now silenced in Cuba’s official catalogs and anthologies. continue reading

In the previous installments of the series, Alcides reflects on the relationship between intellectuals and power, the figure of Fidel Castro and the role played by the Cuban people in several events of the last 150 years.

The Stranger is competing in the Web Series category, along with submissions from 37 countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Vietnam. The festival will take place June 7-9 at Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles and the short, just over two minutes long, is being presented as a world premiere.

The showing in Los Angeles will constitute the premiere of an official exhibition of the series directed, edited and designed by Miguel Coyula, who is also in charge of photography. However, the film has been available for weeks on the filmmaker’s Youtube channel.

During the last Young Filmmakers Exhibition, Coyula was invited to participate in the panel Routes and Routes, Cuban Cinema of the Diaspora in the 21st Century, organized by the researched Zaira Zarza. This panel debated the peculiarities of the diaspora and the formulas to keep alive contacts between “those who leave” and their audience on the island.

In his presentation, Coyula formally introduced the sixth chapter of the series dedicated to Alcides, under the title Capitalism. The filmmaker maintains in these recent creations his particular style of independent and artisanal production, relaying on clean and simple visual effects that build to a striking finale, with his pinpoint accuracy in mixing music, voice and image.

Coyula’s debut in feature films was Red Cockroaches and among his most outstanding productions is Memories of Overdevelopment, which was chosen in 2010 as the Best Cuban Film of that year by the International Film Guide. After several years living in the United States, the filmmaker has returned to live in Havana, where he is filming his third feature film: Blue Heart.

See also:

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Miguel Coyula: All Movies All The Time / Regina Coyula

Resignation Over Censorship / Miguel Coyula

Independent Cinema, Dependent Cinema / Miguel Coyula


Free or Slaves? / 14ymedio, Lynn Cruz

Scene from 'The Emigrants' by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Sahily Moreda. (14ymedio)
Scene from ‘The Emigrants’ by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Sahily Moreda. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lynn Cruz, Havana, 30 August 2015 — The play The Emigrants (1975), by the Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek has been staged by Sahily Moreado and his company Teatro del Cuartel at Sala Teatro El Sotano in Havana. This story of tearing apart, uprooting and exile will present the final shows of its revival over the weekend.

One of the characters fled for political reasons, while the other to escape misery. The first believes in the value of being able to think and speak freely, while the latter wants to make money to return to his family. Two visions of the world coexist in a basement, but what isn’t specified is in which country or city.

Driven by survival, each character shows his most primitive side and at the moments when the atmosphere becomes more sordid than dreary, the theater piece evokes the work Two Lost in the Filthy Night (1966) by the Brazilian Linio Marcos. continue reading

Because The Emigrants is presented in a Cuban scenario, for the audience the association is immediate: Two Cuban immigrants in a first world country. Thus, the two realities end up merged, and even more so due to the historic similarities that unite us with Poland.

The absence of scene design, however, weakens the vision. For example, the use of Caribbean objects and furniture found in any Cuban house or kitchen. Another notable aspect were the sudden and almost mechanical lighting transitions, which at many points are divorced from the rhythm of the staging.

However, the minimalism, as well as the use of space and each of the elements, display no lack of rigor. Moreda, in addition to being characterized by his exhaustive selection of texts, fends intelligently for himself, countering the material deficiencies with the quality of his performers, who achieve particularly emotional moments.

It is not difficult for the spectators to enter in the atmosphere of the basement where the story narrated by the play takes place. A match between the real space and the theatrical space, with the odor of dampness and the dust in the room, this time, favors the fiction.

The characters are from different backgrounds and had they remained in their birth countries it is probable that their paths never would have crossed. This is one of the conflicts of the play, which also addresses the psychological processes an immigrant passes through, ranging from the more casual relationship between them, to the most extreme circumstances.

The intellectual proclaims that he lives in post-socialism, now that he can say and express what he feels. He experiences freedom, but he has lost conflict as a driving force for creativity and his truths must be spoken in the place where they were engendered. On the other hand, the construction worker, his roommate, is his object of analysis and he needs him to cope with the displacement.

The subject and the object become one. The intellectual calls him slave, and challenges him to say what he thinks, without fear. He confronts the worker with his truth: The loss of the sense of the journey. With this he goes into a deeper truth that leads him to question even his own existence.

The truthfulness in his characters, the precision of movement as well as the careful diction, often absent in today’s Cuba, characterize the excellent performance of Daniel Robles. The young actor excels in an way, along with the more experienced Walfrido Serrano, who has returned memorable performances in Teatro El Publico. The latter, however, is excessively theatrical in his delivery at times and should check his laughter which, on occasion, tarnishes his naturalness.

The Emigrants arrives on the Cuban scene and, beyond history versus the individual, Mrozek digs into the human aspect. It brings us to accept out truth without distorting it, makes us live truly in the present and positively influences our future. It leaves us with an individual question: Are we free or are we slaves?