Islands / I Lands, NOW—Vista de Cuba
I attended the New Latin American Film Festival in Havana in December 2009, two months after the screening program “Islands/I Lands: Cinemas in Exile,” which I had curated for YIDFF that year. The Havana festival, which got its start 10 years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, coincided with the 50th anniversary of the revolution in 2009 and was teeming with participants, mainly from Ibero-America.
Although I had heard previously that the festival was experiencing increasing financial difficulty due to the economic hardship in Cuba, the enthusiasm for cinema and the interaction the festival inspired among people was no different from anything I had seen at other venues around the world. If anything, there was an especially palpable desire to see and to be seen, and to interact, here at this particular place, in Cuba.
To speak of expressing the “island” of the self through cinema, of creating one’s own “island” by making cinema, or even of creating cinema on an “island” is not only a matter of geography as such. An “island” as a concept is also a creative site where people and films themselves reflect upon their own existence. Cuba, which at the time was undergoing a period of transition, took shape for me as just such a conceptual island layered upon the geographical island.
As an island that has received special attention not only within Latin America but throughout the world, Cuba has remained a magnetic force that has provided a sense of unity to Latin America, and it has served in many ways as a political and cultural center. How has filmmaking in Cuba articulated and disarticulated “the state” and “ideology” while influencing and drawing influence from the rest of Latin America? Taking as a base point the year 1959, when Instituto Cubano del Arte y la Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) was established, this program focuses upon the explorations and experiments of filmmakers who produced exceptional works in the past as well as those who are producing works at the moment, while paying attention to the viewpoints and interactions these films have elicited.
During my second visit to Cuba, the March earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. Although I am tempted to conclude that today’s Cuba is an example from which Japan can learn, the truth is that we have a long and deep course of our own to pursue, as if across the serene sea extending from the shores of our islands. Though the sea may seem peaceful, it is sometimes also fierce, and it will transform endlessly. I hope that you will be drawn in by the passionate and intellectually rich films that take the form of islands amid the waves of Yamagata, and by the sea that stretches from their shores.
I would finally like to express my heartfelt appreciation to those who have generously offered assistance and cooperated in various ways in assembling this program.