From the YIDFF Office

2014-07-18 | Noticiero #02—Following “Islands / I Lands, NOW—Vista de Cuba”

Despite the limited paper supply in Cuba, books about cinema are not few. They are published not only from the ICAIC Press but also from local and independent publishers. In fact, I was deeply impressed to see that every book shop in the country I checked out dealt with specialist books on cinema. In the meantime, in order to obtain the book you want, you have to look around multiple shops, or make a request and repetitive reminders of delivery at a secondhand bookshop likely to get it. You can say that such a slow business is part of the typical Cuban lifestyle. I discovered a number of rare film books and immersed myself in reading those books with a dictionary every day. They included translations of research publication from Europe and even the first Cuban book devoted to documentary, Romper la tension del arco. Movimiento Cubano De Cine Documental (2010), whose author Jorge Luis Sanchez Gonzalez himself is a documentary filmmaker born in 1960. In this book, he divides Cuban documentary history from 1897 onward into seven periods, and describes the development of documentary filmmaking in Cuba by carefully exemplifying important works of each era. Moreover, detailed filmographies of each director are provided at the end of the volume.

People in Cuba enjoy easy access to all types of books, from novels by up-and-coming writers to books by specialists of Latin American literature, philosophy, economics and artists—and this situation can commonly be seen in other Latin American countries. The international book fair in Cuba is always held in a crazy festive atmosphere, which we cannot compare with our rather quiet Japanese versions. I was struck by the fact that literary expression and its lively acceptance in the society are firmly rooted in this country.

As is commonly known, the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great Colombian author whose obituary swept across the world on April 17, was deeply involved in the establishment of EICTV (Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV) founded by FNCL (Fundacion de Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano), where he worked as president. The EICTV is still an influential film school attracting promising students from all over the world. For instance, Ahmad Natche, director of Two Meters of This Land screened at YIDFF 2013’s New Asian Currents, is also an alumnus of this school. FNCL has an office, a library and a theater, all which are within a vast mansion located on green-shrouded property in the outskirts of Havana. It must have been some kind of an omen for me to visit again during this stay, as the foundation’s director Ms. Alquimia Pena spoke to me at length about the time Garcia Marquez and other film industry people visited, while she showed me around the place (Marquez was alive when we were there). It is a pity that when YIDFF invited Marquez to Yamagata as a jury member for its first edition in 1989, he was planning to come but eventually couldn’t. Marquez’s enthusiastic involvement in various artistic activities still inspires us a lot.

FNCL is now a principal institution contributing to DOC TV Latin America, which is a TV documentary series started in 2006, produced and distributed by an alliance of public broadcasting stations in Latin American countries. This series continues to produce an attractive collection of documentaries introducing various unique issues of each region and common social problems. Although ICAIC’s support for documentary film production has almost completely petered out, and short- and mid-length documentaries dominate the Cuban independent film world, some excellent feature documentaries supported by DOC TV’s production system such as La Certeza (Dir: Almando Capo Ramos) are being produced. I’ll keep my eyes out for such moves.

Hama Haruka (YIDFF Tokyo Office)