The Cancellation of A Cyber-Gathering In Camagüey Sparks Outrage / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Juan Antonio García Borrero during a conference. (Youtube)
Juan Antonio García Borrero during a conference. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Camaguey, 2 November 2015 — The peaceful city of Camagüey experienced a shock among its intellectuals this weekend. The well-known film critic Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero denounced the “intellectual conservatism” that led to the suspension of a cyber-gathering programmed for this Thursday in Café Ciudad. In his blog, Cine cubano, la pupila insomne (Cuban cinema, the insomniac pupil), the specialist reflects on the “tribal thinking and institutional self-censorship that follows from it.”

“I seem to be living a nightmare,” García Borrero said in a post, in response to being informed by the leadership of the Office of the City Historian that the gathering could not be held, “despite having been promoted in all the media.” His first reaction was to “take a breath, breathe deeply… I won’t give them the pleasure, neither those here nor there, of making me into a disaffected person,” he wrote in a brief post.

Known for his work in rescuing and spreading Cuban cinema, Garcia Borrero has had a blog for more than eight years, where he reflects on the seventh art. His work as a blogger has also led him to approach the digital publication scene and he participated in the First Forum of Audiovisual Consumption, held in Havana in 2014, an experience that he had tried unsuccessfully to move to this native city.

The idea of the forum, according to the author of the book BLOGuerías – published by the Cuban publisher Acana in 2009 – “was born of personal exchanges that at some point” he had engaged in with the former Cuban Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto. Initially, the event was scheduled in Camaguey city, but the lack of time to organize it moved the first event to the capital.

Following the Havana meeting, Pedro de la Hoz Gonzalez, vice president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), informed the provincial section of the organization of the “confirmation of the announcement of the Second Forum on Audiovisual Culture” for 30 and 31 October. However, the event did not happen. It was the local “UNEAC which has put the most obstacles in the way,” complains García Borrero.

Emotionally affected by the forum’s not being held and the cancellation of the cyber-gathering that would have taken its place, the film critic shared with his readers on the Internet his concern that the authorities would insist on decreeing his “civil death” in Camagüey. “It doesn’t matter. I will always have the cave, the solitary refuge to which Nietzsche alluded*,” he explained.

Garcia Borrero’s complaint arrives within a few of a meeting of the G-20 Group in Havana, which is promoting the implementation of a Film Law, a detail referred to by the critic Gustavo Arcos, in an article he published this Friday in defense of the Camagueyan, and denouncing the “tacit conspiracy of some people in power in the country to put an end to everything that has to do with initiative in the audiovisual field.”

Arcos says that this intention is seen “in the arbitrary bans on [private] 3D movie rooms,” decreed at the end of 2013, and in “the current resistance to implementing a Film Law.” The specialist adds that these attitudes, “the systematic attacks on the weekly packet,” and also seen in the “continued mantle of suspicion and threats that are launched against journalists, bloggers, graphic designers or artists linked to alternative publications, web pages or spaces generated by individual initiatives.”

The controversy over the cancelled cyber-gathering has barely begun and it could be joined by many other intellectuals, given the prestige enjoyed by Garcia Borrero, as an outstanding professional and honest man. The scene of the creation, production and film criticism in recent weeks in Cuba resembles dry grass about to catch fire. What happened in the city of Camagüey could be the spark.

*Translator’s note: “Wherever there have been powerful societies, governments, religions, or public opinions — in short, wherever there was any kind of tyranny, it has hated the lonely philosopher; for philosophy opens up a refuge for man where no tyranny can reach: the cave of inwardness, the labyrinth of the breast; and that annoys all tyrants.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer As Educator, 1874. Source of this English translation here.