Fire in the Forge

Alexis Triana was appointed president of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry on November 9. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 14 December 2023 — Two speeches, completely opposed, have marked these days of the film festival in Havana. On the one hand, we have the inaugural words of Alexis Triana, the appointed official at the head of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). On the other, those of the filmmaker Ernesto Daranas, in the presentation of his feature film Landrián.

Daranas spoke with the authentic humility that characterizes him. Behind his slow tone was all the firmness of the artist who does not resign himself to obedience and silence. The renowned director of films such as Los dioses rotos, Conducta and Sergio y Sergéi, publicly condemned exclusion and censorship, those “great stigmas of Cuban culture and society in general.” The director dedicated the presentation of his documentary to the Assembly of Filmmakers and to all the colleagues and compatriots who have been the object of injustices. His words, simple and direct, were widely applauded, shared and commented on by thousands of Cubans on their social networks, although the official media prefer to pretend that they were never said.

Those same media, on the contrary, have not lost a minute in spreading the speech of official Alexis Triana to the point of exhaustion

Those same media, on the contrary, have not lost a minute in spreading the speech of official Alexis Triana to the point of exhaustion. The new commissioner of the ICAIC used the pompous, laudatory and demagogic style that he has been rehearsing in all his years as an employee of the bureaucratic apparatus. The people of Holguīn know well that declamatory intonation that he used to throw from the balcony of La Periquera, always losing his voice, as if he were a mixture of Republican mayor and revolutionary cheerleader.

Alexis has spent his life trying to prove that he is a loyal cadre; maybe that’s why he insists on imitating Eusebio Leal, without ever achieving his popular eloquence. This time, the one he did manage to imitate perfectly was Lindoro Incapaz, a humorous character who represents the typical official on the Island.

Alexis belongs to the list of those who were humiliated and defenestrated by their own leader, when they suffered from that disease called youth, something that is usually healed over time. And he was cured, definitely. Rebellion aged him; being candid gave him gray hair, and male menopause made him immune to having a free spirit. Today, he is an older man who has worn so many masks that he no longer remembers his true face.

But Alexis is a smart guy, I admit that. He knows perfectly how to manipulate his audience with figures and statistics, anecdotes retrieved from the drawer, flamenco movements of his right hand and the occasional emphasis on key words. Aware of the participation of a good number of progressive filmmakers in the festival, he used a “left-wing” rhetoric, according to the eighties manual, for the attending veterans; he drew out of his sleeve a feminist wink to the guest filmmakers and recited a “they, they, they, they” for the youngest. He spoke, of course, of “imperialism” and “cultural colonization,” although this time he preferred to leave the word “blockade” on the desk of his new office.

Those who know him well, know that Alexis had four drinks when he gave the speech. It was noticeable in certain slurred vowels and in the continuous skating with words where “S” and”R” abounded. Alexis would be able to spend the entire ICAIC budget to subsidize epic drunkenness. Then he will disguise some buddy as an Eskimo to say, with all the grandiloquence of the world, that the new Inuit cinema has finally arrived at the Havana festival.

He spoke, of course, of “imperialism” and “cultural colonization,” although this time he preferred to leave the word “blockade” on the desk of his new office

 Alexis’ mission in the ICAIC is clear. He’s a fumigator. He comes to clean the disobedient guild of “vectors” and fill the movie theaters with smoke. He doesn’t care about the quality or transcendence of the works. He wants to show off figures and some small blow for effect, although his ego is usually depressed by his being reduced to a simple official. When he talked about Alfredo Guevara and Wikipedia, he was actually talking about himself, with notable emphasis on the “we” when he mentioned cultural managers and promoters. It hurts that they see him for what he is: a bureaucrat.

Alexis may have a coefficient above the average of the cadres that populate the office ecosystem, although that is not difficult. Bureocrats don’t have dreams, only tasks. For Cuban officials there is no word for future; their mission is to stretch the past, disguising it as the present. His speech should not have been called “The fire is still in the forge,” but rather, “I’m still blowing smoke.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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