The best cuban films in the last ten years
A tribute to the Cuban film industry on the occasion of its half a century of existence.
The ten titles that reached the finals in a survey sponsored by the Cuban Association of Cinematographic Press to select the most notable films in the history of cinema on the island make up one of the special showings of the 31st International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema in Havana.
Memorias del subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment, 1968), a classic of Ibero-American cinema, directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, is at the top of the list. The movie version of the homonymous novel by Edmundo Desnoes, also heads the categories of Best Script, written by the narrator and Gutiérrez Alea; Photography (Ramón F. Suárez); Editing (Nelson Rodríguez); Artistic Direction (Julio Matilla); Music (Leo Brower); Sound Track (Eugenio Vesa, Carlos Fernández and Germinal Hernández); and Best Poster (Designed by Spaniard Antonio Saura).
There are another three titles from the important filmography of Gutiérrez Alea (1928-1996): Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate, 1993), which he co-directed with Juan Carlos Tabío, in third place; the comedy La muerte de un burócrata (1966), on the sixth position; and is his anthological La última cena (1976), closing the top tens.
Lucía (Lucia, 1968), first work of Humberto Solás (1941-2008) in fiction feature films, is second. Fourth place belongs to the medium-length movie Madagascar (Madagascar, 1993), directed by Fernando Pérez, while Papeles secundarios (1989), Orlando Rojas’ second feature film and one of the most significant ones of the 1980’s, is fifth.
La primera carga al machete (1969), by Manuel Octavio Gómez (1934-1988), is a title worth being rediscovered by movie goers and new generations of scholars. The 33 votes received by this unusual production, set during the island’s independence wars against Spanish colonialism but made from the perspective of a contemporary story, placed it seventh. Photographer Jorge Herrera, with his vehement experience of camera in hand contributed to the impact of this film that represented Cuba in the International Film Festival in Venice in a year in which no official prizes were given.
Pastor Vega (1940-2005) appears on the eighth position with his movie Retrato de Teresa (Portrait of Teresa, 1978), backed by 32 votes. Forty years after its production, the film continues to be fresh for the efficiency and bravery with which Vega expressed the social problem of male chauvinism.
Next, shot a decade later by Enrique Pineda Barnet, comes La bella del Alhambra (1989), with its extraordinary sound track -a biographical sketch of a turbulent period in Cuban history (1920-1935) by way of the ascent to stardom of a girl working at the time in a theater for men only.
The results of the survey, after the compilation of the votes sent by 73 critics, journalists, filmmakers, historians and researchers, were announced in March, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC).
The survey was not just limited to name the best titles in each category but also the best in different specialties: Script, Photograph Direction, Editing, Art Direction, Original Music, Sound Track and Poster. Those polled were also asked to choose the most notable sequences and the most remembered phrases of Cuban cinema (1959-2008).
On this occasion, the event is devoted to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation, by the revolutionary government, of the first law in the field of culture that led to the founding of the institution and that established that “cinema is an artistic expression.”
The program of celebrations also includes a section entitled “Revolución día a día: Noticiero ICAIC Latinoamericano” (Revolution day by day, ICAIC Latin American Newscast) an anthology of the newscast of the 1960’s, testimonies filmed by the cameras that recall the skill of late Santiago Álvarez and his production team. “ICAIC-A propósito de los 50” (ICAIC, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary) is another of the screenings to honor the Film Institute but with recent documentaries dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the institution, founded by Alfredo Guevara. The catalogue includes the titles Dentro de 50 años (In 50 Years) (Jorge Luis Sánchez González, Wilbert Noguel Morales, Javier Castro Rivera, Adrián R. Hartill Montalvo), Nunca será fácil la herejía (Heresy will never be easy) (Jorge Luis Sánchez ), 50 sueños (50 Dreams) (Miguel Fernández Martínez) and Una historia en blanco y negro (A Story in Black and White) (Gloria Argüelles).