14ymedio, Havana, December 11, 2023 — On Sunday, three years after the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) began the restoration of the filmography of the censored Nicolás Guillén Landrián, the Latin American Film Festival showed the documentary titled with the filmmaker’s surname. The director, Ernesto Daranas, surprised the audience when he took the stage and presented the film he described as “visionary of a Cuban cinema submitted to ostracism, imprisonment and finally to exile.”
He did not stop there and managed to deliver a speech of almost three minutes — which was applauded at the end — against a censorship “that is not a case of the past,” since “still today” it is exercised not only on the works, but also on the right of the people “to freely access their films, and on the very institutions of Cuban cinema, which includes this beloved festival.”
“The question then is: why do filmmakers insist on being here? The answer is in you, the people of whom we are part, the true producer and protagonist of our films,” said Daranas, who claimed the event as “the only opportunity” to meet with the public “in a country without cinema,” and to be sure that “a film can change the world, even for 90 minutes.”
“The question then is: why do filmmakers insist on being here? The answer is in you, the people of whom we are a part, the true producer and protagonist of our films”
Daranas reclaimed the figure of Guillén Landrián, nephew of the poet Nicolás Guillén, an active fighter against the Batista dictatorship but later repudiated for his “licentious attitude” and comments “not in accordance with a young revolutionary,” according to the documentary itself. His figure embodies the raison d’être of the Assembly of Cuban Filmmakers, said the director, who asked to open a debate on the “stigmas of Cuban culture and society in general.”
“The true problem has never been in our movies, but in the reality to which they are owed. There can definitely be no different country for cinema than the one we have as a people. That’s why censorship persists; that’s why the right to dissent is restricted and criminalized,” he continued, in the midst of the apparent tranquility of those who accompanied him on stage and the public.
“Permit me then to dedicate this presentation to all colleagues and compatriots subject to exclusion and censorship. To those who in any corner of Cuba and the world are still determined to freely tell their stories, to freely express and defend their ideas. And of course let me dedicate this film today to our Assembly of Cuban Filmmakers, of which I like to think that Landrián, along with so many greats of our cinema, would also have been part,” he concluded.
The video of the presentation was disseminated by the Facebook group of the Assembly of Cuban Filmmakers, which expressed its emotion at what was seen or experienced, according to those who were in the room. Although not everyone assumes that the action will not be punished. “What will happen now with Daranas? Because those of us who were born in Cuba know that censorship and exclusion cannot be condemned without consequences,” said one commentator.
“What will happen now with Daranas? Because those of us who were born in Cuba know that censorship and exclusion cannot be condemned without consequences”
The presentation of Daranas’ film was announced in Prensa Latina this Sunday. Landrián was spoken of as a “recognized avant-garde figure within national cinema,” and it was described as a “paradox” that he is “one of the filmmakers least known to the Cuban public” despite his being of great academic interest.
The article also calls the filmmaker “controversial” and adds that the film narrates, among other things, Landrián’s “phase as a poet and the reasons that led him to emigrate to the United States.”
Daranas told Prensa Latina that his film is “a spiritual mass that bears witness to suffering and many things that unfortunately continue to damage our cinema.” The pro-government media did not respond.
Landrián – a Spanish-Cuban co-production – was premiered in the Clásicos de la Mostra program at the prestigious Venice Festival, class A, held in September. The international press then reported details such as the psychiatric hospitalizations that the filmmaker suffered, during which he underwent electroshock therapy for his “ideological deviation,” until in the 80s he managed to go into exile in Miami, expressly authorized by Fidel Castro.
In 2019, 16 years after Landrián’s death from pancreatic cancer, Daranas found his film file on the Island in very bad condition and began the restoration, after an agreement with the ICAIC. “With the restoration that we have made of ten of his films and with this documentary we seek to present to the general public an exceptional filmmaker who faced a problem that unfortunately many Cuban filmmakers still face today: censorship,” Daranas declared in Venice.
The international press did then reported details such as the psychiatric hospitalizations that the filmmaker suffered, during which he underwent electroshock therapy for his “ideological deviation”
With Daranas’ appearance yesterday, the Assembly of Cuban Filmmakers partially removed the discomfort of having two “uncomfortable” films not accepted by the selection committee: Llamadas desde Moscú [Calls from Moscow], by Luis Alejandro Yero, and La Habana de Fito [Fito’s Havana], by Juan Pin Vilar. The latter was precisely the person who started an open war between the authorities and this group, born in June of this year, which was manifested through a letter signed by more than 600 professionals in the sector who demanded changes from the Ministry of Culture.
Ernesto Daranas, director of the award-winning Conducta [Conduct], has been involved in more protests against government policies, such as the G-20 film collective, which in 2014 demanded a new Law of Cinema and the end of censorship. Almost ten years later, the complaint is still valid.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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