Gibara, a Piece of Light Thrown in the Sea / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

It was during the last days of March that I heard the unfortunate news: those of us who are cinema fans have lost the “Humberto Solas” Poor Cinema Festival. A disagreement between the convoking groups of Holguin and Havana left us helpless — those of us who would visit a film theater without prejudice and with less intentions than the those who have commercial tendencies or transcendent postures which some filmmakers want to include in every moment of their lives.

All sorts of artists would come to this festival with desires to showcase fresh ideas and rigor through other essences and other discourses in a more democratic and participatory form of cinema, and of course, without ever ceasing to entertain. Solas helped that magic. Many people from Holguin helped him, while some others planted trials and tribulations along his path so that he would get knocked down from time to time. Between so much bureaucracy and vulgar provincialism, they would have soon stripped the author of “Lucia” from his desire to go on.

What is happening now could have been seen coming. Finally, during the beginning of Spring, the effort took place (at least the public ones in the province) between the opinions and decisions of Alexis Triana (the Provincial Director of Culture) and Sergio Benvenuto Solas (nephew of Solas and president of the Festival Organizer Committee).

First came some e-mails, they say, and later the local publication of “La Luz” which informed a small number of Holguin natives of Triana’s reasons. Since so few of us have access to our e-mail, we have to go along with what Triana has to say about Benvenuto’s position. The fact is that the festival will be annual, but will be held in the capital of the country.

Gibara, one of the Cuban paradises of the North Atlantic, had sharpened its teeth. A swarm of men and women prepared their homes to offer rentals for foreign and national visitors. Drinks, fish, and seafood already spread their aroma throughout the red roofs which characterize this seaside villa.

Mario is a childhood friend of mine. For three years now he has been aiming to make the salary of a few months in only one week through cinema: “People buy and look for all sorts of things, from old books, old pieces of artwork, precious woods, corals, fish, everything. The festival was the important moment”, he painfully told me.

During the beginning of March I had passed by Gibara and firsthand witnessed the anxiety. To me, Gibara produced two very different emotions. It was there that I discovered weekend breaks during the 90’s. It was our escape from the city into that paradise we believed in. Later, in 2006, I received the worst repudiation attack ever. That specific hate session was prepared by the then Captain Abel Ramirez. We were at the house of the dissident Alexander Santos and they placed the mobs there to bark against us. Afterward, I returned to that place with somewhat of a painful sensation.

Last Saturday, April 2nd, they distributed “La Luz” newspaper, the informative paper of Provincial Culture, and apparently the remedy was worse than the disease. Since no one can be blamed, the people do not believe in the absurdities of a Benvenuto who only comes once a year. They also do not accept much diatribe from the provincial Director of Culture.

Apparently, the justifications don’t matter when it deals with an event which placed the town at the spotlight of the entire nation for a few days, and which also provided food for dozens of families (with room, car, and bike rentals) from the recently caught fish and with a cinema festival full of young blood.

I ate at the home of two new friends and spent an afternoon of coffee and good conversations with the recurrent theme of the festival. Everything points out to the opinion that the majority would have preferred a dialogue, saving the film festival in Giabara at all costs. If the supposed clumsiness had not been ordered from an ideological position of the Communist Party, then there would be no reason to not have been able to find a solution.

A concert by Carlos Varela or X Alfonso, a contemporary art exposition, and interesting debates (which I took part in various times) which accompanied the film screenings were well worth sitting at the table to debate if it would continue being held here in this worm-eaten land or not.

I am translating the feeling of local families, and I think I have the right to condemn the fact that the weapons of fruitful dialogue have been ignored, although the previously mentioned provincial functionary has stated in his article that “a new habitual round of anti-Cuban paranoia” has occurred.

The festival was mine as well, and although an invisible edict dictated nearly 4 years ago has left me outside of the debates, the public readings, and the possibilities of publishing, I would have added my signature in favor of saving that festival which vanished in our very own hands. Wherever he is, Humberto Solas must be furious.

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

April 10 2011