The Cuban Film School Rejects the Imposition of a New Director and Asks for ‘Transparency’

The Academic Council refuses to recognize the new directive and warns about the violation of statutes. (Facebook/International School of Film and Television)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 July 2023 — The Academic Council of the International Film and Television School of San Antonio de los Baños (EICTV), in Mayabeque, expressed its disagreement with the imposition, by the Ministry of Culture, of Waldo Ramírez as the new director of the center. The measure, described as “abrupt, arbitrary and silent,” adds to the list of recent clashes between the guild of filmmakers and the cultural authorities of the Island.

“We didn’t know about the appointment because of the way it happened, and we demand a transparent decision-making process,” said the statement, which was signed by 13 members of the Council.

The arrival of Ramírez – founder of Televisión Serrana, in Santiago de Cuba, and representative on the Island of the Venezuelan multinational network Telesur – to EICTV is the indirect consequence of the dismissal of Ramón Samada from the presidency of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) and the assumption of the office by the vice president of the Institute, Susana Molina, former director of EICTV.

Numerous filmmakers, teachers and students linked to the school have also expressed personally, on their social networks, their non-recognition of the new directive, protected by the statutes of the institution. They also demand that “the proper selection process” be carried out in a transparent and “consensual” way, with the opinion of the student body – which includes foreign students – and the workers.

The community of teachers, graduates and filmmakers linked to EICTV also opened a petition, so that all those involved with the School can express their support for the Academic Council with their signatures. “We believe in the possibility of restoring a useful and necessary art for our nations, as well as promoting it in the only way we believe possible: by creating a free cinema,” the statement concludes.

The Cuban Filmmaker Assembly also commented this Sunday on the decisions of ICAIC. In their statement they made it clear that “Cuban cinema does not belong to a ministry or an institution. They [the institutions] have to put themselves at the service of the artists and not the other way around.”

Critic and film professor Gustavo Arcos also shared his opinion regarding the debate on his Facebook account. “It is not Samada, it is the structure that puts and removes Samada that must be reviewed, transformed or, if necessary, deleted. Managers and officials make mistakes; no one is perfect, but there is a system, a model of order and command that has sustained, for too long, that institutional violence that we have once again just perceived.”

It is not the first time that EICTV has caused headaches for art officials in Cuba. Last May, some students, mostly foreigners, had complained about the poor conditions of the school by writing on the walls of the center “Down with the leadership. Thieves.” Cuban writer Wendy Guerra, a graduate of the center and currently residing in the United States, then warned that the film school “is a non-governmental institution” where Cuban students and “some young foreigners” receive scholarships or pay for their training, so it is natural that a “minimum of conditions” is required for their stay.

At the end of June, the discomfort of the filmmakers caused more than a hundred directors, screenwriters and actors to have a meeting with leaders of the Ministry of Culture and the Communist Party to face the controversy unleashed by the censorship and unauthorized dissemination of the documentary La Habana de Fito, by filmmaker Juan Pin Vilar.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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