Cuban Young Filmmakers Exhibition Starts in the Midst of a Debate About Film Censorship

The first hours of the 17th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition took place this Tuesday in an almost empty theater at the Chaplin cinema, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 4 April 2018 — The first hours of the 17th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition took place this Tuesday in an almost empty theater of the Chaplin cinema, in Havana. The event began in the midst of the scandal over the the exclusion of the film I Want to Make a Movie, from director Yimit Ramírez, an incident that continues to generate conflicting opinions among officials and filmmakers.

The Exhibition was inaugurated with the screening of The Two Princes, a short film inspired by the homonymous poem by José Martí. The choice of the film was interpreted by the audience as a response to Ramírez’s film, which the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) criticized for including «disrespectful» dialogue about the national hero.

The afternoon and evening session on this first day was enlivened a little more with the welcome offered by the organizing committee to the young filmmakers at their new headquarters on 23rd Street. Two exhibitions, Hair of the Wolf, by the artist collective Chambelon Network, and Vero de perro, by Manuel Almenares, completed the day’s program.

Also presented on the opening day was the feature film not part of the competition, The Wolves of the East, filmed in Japan and directed by Carlos Machado Quintela, known for his film The Work of the Century (2015)about the failed Cienfuegos Nuclear City project.

However, the main protagonists of the day were the absentee I Want to Make a Movie and its director, who were at the focus of the conversations among exhibition attendees, especially because, hours earlier, the Presidency of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) issued a harsh statement against the film.

UNEAC’s statement adds to an avalanche of articles and comments published in the official press and on the websites of institutions that criticized the words of a character in the film, who refers to José Martí with the terms «mojón» and «maricón» (turd and faggot). UNEAC believes that the exclusion of the film from the program is an incident that has been “magnified” by the «anti-Cuban press.»

«We share the indignation of youth who follow Martí in the face of this attempt to tarnish the memory of the Apostle,» said the Presidency of the pro-government association. The statement, however, did not mention the public solidarity shown by much of the film industry with Ramírez.

«To those who seek to undermine the founding values ​​of the Cuban nation, we say: Don’t involve José Martí!» UNEAC said in its statement, in a tone that many filmmakers and film critics have considered threatening.

On Tuesday night, the Exhibition continued with the screening of the documentary short films Movies and Memory by Jorge Luis Sánchez and Notes on the Shore by Luis Alejandro Yero. In addition, the fiction short film Rocaman, by Marcos Díaz, and the animated Decomposition, by Jarol Cuellar, were screened.

Like last year, the Exhibition suffers from a shortage of works in the animation section, with just three this year. In addition to the films in the competition, the event also includes a Bonus section for non-competition pieces, known as the Moving Ideas space, along with the usual conferences and the pitching of movie themes in the Making Cinema section.

Among the most anticipated is the screening of Alejandro Alonso Estrella’s documentary, The Project, which presents the concept: «A filmmaker is forbidden to film an old school converted into housing. Years later, he decides to remake the Project.»

Also in the documentary category, the filmmaker Marcel Beltrán competed with the work The Music of the Spheres, inspired by a family history.

Despite the censorship applied to his latest film, Yimit Ramírez is represented with a short film from 2017, Eternal Glory, which tells the story of Julián, an «outstanding worker» worthy of an award he has always wanted, but «at the moment he is nominated, his mind is filled with great conflicts.»

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