Cuban Film Industry Restores the Work of a Filmmaker Who Was Censored and Sentenced to Exile

Nicolás Guillén Landrián died in 2003. Months before, the Young Filmmakers Show had paid him a tribute. (

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 September 2020 — The filmography of Cuban documentary filmmaker Nicolás Guillén Landrián, who died in Miami in 2003, where he lived in exile, is being restored by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

The filmmaker Ernesto Daranas is at the forefront of the process, according to the official portal Cubacine, and will include all the heritage that the Institute conserves on the director of such controversial documentaries as En un barrio viejo (1963), Ociel del Toa (1965), Reportage (1966) and Coffea Arábiga (1968).

Daranas highlighted that the project has the support of Landrián’s widow, Gretel Alonso; and Livio Delgado, photographer of several of her most important documentaries.

The job is to clean, first, the celluloid rolls and then scan them in 4K and create a digital clone as close as possible to the original work.

Although, according to Daranas, the restoration will allow the necessary approach to the filmmaker’s work “in order to appreciate it as he conceived it,” the truth is that Guillén Landrián’s filmography was censored for years by the Cuban film industry. His letters recalls it this way: “I was humiliated and banned throughout my stay at ICAIC and they censored my cinema.”

He was a creator marginalized by officials and specialists and his documentaries, unknown to the public, were only shown on the country’s screens a few months before his death when the coordinating team of the Young Filmmakers Show prepared a tribute in which they were premiered most of his titles.

The current situation, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Havana, has affected the process of searching for some films by Guillén Landrián, but the restorers are compiling all the bibliographic material that allows us to understand the creations of the Camagüeyan, born in 1938, who also dedicated himself to the painting.

Guillén Landrián was expelled from ICAIC in 1973 and in 1989 he arrived in the United States as a political exile. Gretel Alonso, who emigrated with him, told La Fuga: “The 80s were a particularly miserable decade. Nicolás knew that there was no return to the cinema, but a struggle for survival and constant persecution. That’s how the 80s were, little foo , vague accusations of ’dangerousness’, constant police visits.”

Alonso also commented that some films that do not appear, such as El morro (1963), Congos reales (1962), Rita (1965) and El son (1972), continue to be lost. “They do not appear, so we cannot say anything about them. Each of the documentaries I have studied has its own anthropological, sociological, aesthetic importance, its immanent beauty and the memory of Nicolás.”


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