Cuban film conquers India
NEW DELHI: Its rum and cigars are famous; its politics even more so. What is less known and seldom talked about is Cuba’s thriving art scene and film culture, the focus of ‘Cuban Arts and Revolution’, a series of events organized by Delhi University’s Germanic and Romance Studies department in collaboration with Cuban Embassy and LeftWord Books. The main features of the event were an art exhibition, a seminar and a film fest that ended on Wednesday.
There was little by way of art patronage in the island nation before the Revolution in 1959. “Immediately after the Revolution, the Cuban state spent a lot of time and effort setting up institutions to encourage art. Cuba had no domestic film industry before the Revolution. The state-run Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC) to produce and distribute films was set up within 80 days of the Revolution,” says Sudhanva Deshpande of Delhi-based publishing house LeftWord Books.
Despite the difficult times, artistes found a myriad ways to express themselves. “There has been vigorous activity in the fields of cinema, literature, music and dance. Their national ballet is world-famous. In fact, the festival starts a discussion on what the revolutionaries have achieved in spite of international hostility and very difficult economic and political conditions,” he says.
“They were not uncritical,” says Deshpande of the exhibits and the speakers. What Cuban artists produce under state patronage is far from propaganda, he assures. Professor Vibha Maurya, an expert on Hispanic culture, agrees saying that what became apparent over the two-week festival was “how the state has been incorporating dissent and different voices.”
Speaking on the contribution of ICAIC, film critic Samik Bandyopadhay said it “served as a platform for filmmakers from all of Latin America as, in 1959, many of the countries were under dictatorships.” He focused on the film Memorias del Subdesarrollo or Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) by Tomas Alea “where the Revolution and post-Revolutionary politics are critiqued in the whole structure of the film.”
Representing the dynamism and passion of Cuban culture, artiste Zaida del Rio, also an illustrator, ceramist, engraver, poet and yoga practitioner, exhibited her works at the Earth’s Dance Painting Exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi from November 2 to 7.
Deeply influenced by Eastern philosophy and spiritualism, Zaida’s large and vibrant canvases depict peacocks, women and nature in myriad hues. She also presented a paper, ‘The Bridge of Art: Cuba and India’, at the seminar. A sense of the Cuban struggle was captured in Marxist literary theorist Aijaz Ahmad’s keynote address at the seminar, “Against the Grain of Our Times”. He discussed the survival of the Cuban revolution, practically in a state of siege for 50 years.
Five contemporary Cuban films Manuel Herrera‘s Dancing Chachacha (Bailando Chachacha), Pavel Giroud‘s The Silly Age (La Edad de la Peseta), Fernando Pirez‘s Madrigal, Manuel Pirez‘s Mauricio’s Diary (Paginas del Diario de Mauricio), Ernesto Daranas‘ Broken Gods (Los Dioses Rotos) were screened as part of the film fest, organized by the India International Centre’s film club.