Islands / I Lands, NOW—Vista de Cuba
  • Wondering Cuba
  • Santiago Álvarez
  • Sara Gómez
  • Nicolás Guillén Landrián
  • Another Eye
  • Immigrants’ Island
  • Fernando Pérez
  • Following Suite Habana
  • Santiago Álvarez

    - Santiago Álvarez

    Santiago Álvarez was born in Havana in 1919, the son of immigrants from Spain. His merchant father was an anarchist who spent time in jail. After apprenticing as a printer, he studied at night school and entered the University of Havana in 1936. He left the university for economic reasons but went to the United States in 1939, where he studied psychology at Columbia University. After returning to Cuba in 1942, he joined the antigovernment movement and began involvement with film through a cinema club. After the revolution, he became a member of ICAIC and began producing newsreels. With no prior experience in film production, Álvarez debuted in his 40s and rose to prominence through his bold editing of limited source materials and his lightning-fast production speed. He was a leader of revolutionary Cuba’s documentary filmmaking, while traveling the world as a director for ICAIC’s Latin American Newsreel. He left behind more than 600 films when he died in Havana in 1998.

    For all the following films by Álvarez, production company and source: ICAIC

    -Death to the Invader

    Muerte al invasor

    CUBA / 1961 / Spanish / B&W / 35mm / 16 min

    Directors, Editing: Santiago Álvarez, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
    Photography: Mario Ferrer, Pablo Martinez, Julio Simoneau
    Sound: Alejandro Caparrós

    In April 1961, a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles recruited in Florida attacked the Girón Beach in southern Cuba (the Girón Invasion, also known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion) in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government. This newsreel documents how this mercenary force was defeated in three days by Cuban armed forces led by Fidel Castro. After the victory, the chief commandant declared the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution.



    CUBA / 1963 / Spanish / B&W / 35mm / 22 min

    Director: Santiago Álvarez
    Photography: ICAIC Latin American Newsreel, National Television News, MINFAR
    Editing: Mario González
    Music: Juan Blanco

    One of the biggest hurricanes in history, Hurricane Flora hit the Caribbean countries, especially the eastern provinces of Cuba, in 1963. While documenting the devastation and the vigorously coordinated responses by the socialist government, this newsreel is the first to manifest certain of Álvarez’s cinematic signatures—especially his revolutionary style of using the soundtrack—which would later attract the world’s attention to this filmmaker.


    CUBA / 1965 / Spanish, English / B&W / 35mm / 6 min

    Director, Script: Santiago Álvarez
    Photography: Jose “Pepin” Rodríguez, Adalberto Hernández
    Editing: Norma Torrado, Idalberto Gálvez
    Music: “Now,” an English version of “Hava Nagila,” by Lena Horne

    Edited to the rhythm of the powerful song by the singer/actress Lena Horne, who was blacklisted during the 1950s for her left-wing politics, this short dealing with racism in the United States shows the master at his best in working with still photographs. In the film, black people are seen not only as products of their circumstances, but as historical actors capable of changing their circumstances.


    CUBA / 1968 / Spanish, English / Color, B&W / 35mm / 18 min

    Director, Script: Santiago Álvarez
    Editing: Norma Torrado, Idalberto Gálvez
    Music: Leo Brouwer, et al.
    Animation: Pepín Rodríguez, Adalberto Hernández

    A bitter satire about President Lyndon Baines Johnson, this playful short has three sections, which correspond to Johnson’s initials, featuring Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy. Álvarez implicates Johnson in all three assassinations, portraying his presidency as the culmination of a history of sociopolitical corruption. Clips from newsreels and Hollywood movies, cartoons, and stills are masterfully collaged to reinforce this view.

    -Departure at 18:00

    Despegue a las 18:00

    CUBA / 1969 / Spanish / B&W / 35mm / 41 min

    Director, Script: Santiago Álvarez
    Photography: Iván Nápoles, Enrique Cárdenas, Bebo Muñiz, José Fraga, Blas Sierra, Raúl Pérez Ureta
    Editing: Norma Torrado, Idalberto Gálvez
    Music: Leo Brouwer

    A chronicle of the intensive development project to combat the poverty and economic problems that people suffer in the eastern provinces of Cuba. In addition to sequences of people who are working in sugarcane planting, medical care, and cigar production, there are newsreel shots of military training, scenes of fighters taking off, and more. They combine in Álvarez’s typical manner with Leo Brouwer’s music to make a rhapsody.

    -Accelerated Development—In the Idiom of Santiago Álvarez

    USA / 1999 / English, Spanish / Color, B&W / 16mm / 56 min

    Director, Script, Photography, Editing, Sound: Travis Wilkerson
    Producer: Susan Fink
    Production Company: Up Front Films

    This film, which presents Álvarez’s life in ten chapters, borrows from Álvarez’s methods of expression, combining Álvarez’s words with segments and snippets of his films into an experimental construction counterposing image, word, and music. The film also reconstructs from a new angle the major events of the 20th century, events that Álvarez himself portrayed. After the film was screened at YIDFF 1999, Wilkerson made a number of changes, including correcting some mistranslations. He released the new version under the title Accelerated Underdevelopment. We will be screening the original version.