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
  • Nicolás Guillén Landrián

    Nicolás Guillén Landrián

    Born in 1938 in Camagüey. Studied social science and politics at the University of Havana and dropped out to work as a radio-station announcer. In 1962, he started to work as an assistant producer and director at ICAIC. He learned from Joris Ivens who had been invited by ICAIC to give courses and lectures and participated in Ivens’s Travel Notebook (1961) as a narrator. Starting in 1963, such films by Guillén Landrián as In an Old Neighborhood appeared. In 1965, Guillén Landrián directed Ociel of the Toa River, which, together with Reportage (1966) and Return to Baracoa (1966), forms a trilogy filmed in eastern Cuba. These works established Guillén Landrián’s original style of ethnographic or experimental documentary in Cuban cinema, which was influenced by Italian Neorealism and the Nouvelle Vague. His cinema discourse on revolutionary process and film aesthetics remains an inspiration to young filmmakers. In 1989, he emigrated to the United States, where he made Inside Downtown in 2001. On July 23, 2003, he died in Miami, a victim of pancreatic cancer. National poet Nicolás Guillén is his paternal uncle.

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

    -In an Old Neighborhood

    En un barrio viejo

    CUBA / 1963 / No dialogue / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 9 min

    Director, Script: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Livio Delgado
    Editing: Caíta Villalón
    Sound: Ricardo Istueta
    Producer: Roberto León Henríquez

    - Featuring images of old Havana, with its dilapidated houses, its tiled roofs, its small towers, its narrow sidewalks, its cobblestone streets, its people . . . An affectionate experimental short documentary that paints a mosaic of Cuba by focusing on a microcosmic “old neighborhood,” where the country’s personality slowly emerges through its various dualities: young and old, sound and silence, Christianity and Santería, civilian life and military presence, poverty and abundance, etc. A renowned work by Guillén Landrián.


    Los del baile

    CUBA / 1965 / Spanish / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 6 min

    Director, Script: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Luis García
    Editing: María Esther Valdés, Justo Vega
    Music: Pello el Afrokán, Federico García
    Producer: Eduardo Valdés Rivero

    People dancing to the Latin music rhythm of “Mozambique,” invented by Pello el Afrokán, for which Cuban music once again became known throughout the world. Contrasting the frenetic trance of the sexes under the sway of the music, there are faces rapt in private thoughts, accompanied by the soft sounds of the clavichord. And again people dance, a Cuban fiesta of rhythm.

    -Ociel of the Toa River

    Ociel del Toa

    CUBA / 1965 / Spanish / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 17 min

    Director, Script: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Livio Delgado
    Editing: Caíta Villalón
    Music: Roberto Valera
    Producer: José Gutiérrez

    A black-and-white poem structured around the daily life of the country boy Ociel, who lives on the Toa River in the Oriente province of Cuba. He spends most of his time rowing a log boat in the river. On weekends he enjoys the modest diversion of going to dances and cockfights and attending school and church in the nearest village.

    -Return to Baracoa

    Retornar a Baracoa

    CUBA / 1966 / Spanish / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 15 min

    Director, Script: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Livio Delgado
    Editing: Amparo Laucerica
    Music: Leo Brouwer, Ulises Fernández
    Producer: José Gutiérrez

    Located in the eastern tip of the island, and famous for its chocolate production, Baracoa sees new factories and development causing changes in economy and social systems after the Revolution . . . This short is the first of many in which Guillén Landrián experiments with still photographs, photo-animation, and text inserts.


    Reportaje (Plenaria campesina)

    CUBA / 1966 / Spanish / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 9 min

    Director, Script: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Livio Delgado
    Editing: Justo Vega
    Music: Armando Guerra
    Producer: José Gutiérrez

    A funeral procession in which villagers march along a mountain path to solemn music bearing the coffin of “Don Ignorancia.” In spite of the sobbing and the kerchiefs covering people’s noses, on closer look the procession reveals itself to be only a symbolic one, with a cardboard box for a coffin . . . “Ignorancia” means ignorance in Spanish. Compared to the previous works of the filmmaker, the last of the trilogy is submerged in a more grave and somber tone.

    -Coffea Arabica

    Coffea Arábiga

    CUBA / 1968 / Spanish / B&W / Video (Original: 35mm) / 18 min

    Director: Nicolás Guillén Landrián
    Photography: Lupercio López
    Editing: Iván Arocha
    Sound: Rodolfo Praza
    Producer: Jorge Rouco

    From planting seeds and fumigation to harvesting and roasting, this account of coffee growing then proceeds, in a radically experimental way, to fade in the noise of omnipresent propaganda. Guillén Landrián’s short documentary violates the conventions of cinematic language through its use of montage, photo-animation, and inserts of texts. The filmmaker also cites a poem by his uncle, Nicolás Guillén.