The Young Filmmakers Festival takes place once a year in Havana, specifically in the Riviera, Chaplin, and 23 and 12 cinemas, and in the Strawberry and Chocolate projection room. Unfortunately the series is small and there is little promotion; it sometimes seems that the films are shown for the young filmmakers and not for us, the public. The festival doesn’t reach the areas on the periphery of Havana and in the provinces it simply doesn't exist. Those of us who are fans know that many of the things that will be seen will never be shown in our theaters again, much less on television. Sure, there will be surprises, some directors are sought out by the public in the notice board: When are you going to show the latest short from Eduardo del Llano? (Brainstorm)
The sampling has let us know about the lives of the divers and hear their stories ("De buzos, leones y tanqueros," by Daniel Vera); has guided us to the “shanty towns” of migrants from the provinces and has thrown in our faces their poverty and despair (“Looking for Havana,” by Alina Rodríguez); has criticized the absurdities of much of the “ideological battles” and of the “programs of the revolution” (“Utopia” by Arturo Infante); we have listened to art critics, artists, writers, and experts speak freely about censorship and about the history of Cuba, what we don’t study in books or in school (“Zone of Silence” by Karel Ducasse); and it has given us, inserted into the programs, the songs of musicians who are censored in every other type of media (the documentary, “Everything was better in the past,” by Zoe Garcia, and the short, “The Desire,” by Alejandro Arango, also with the music of Ciro Díaz).
Finally, the sampling of young filmmakers each year offers us on the screen the reality we see daily but that we all know continues ‘officially’ to not exist. And it lets us dream, at the least if not of a different society, at least of a free society: it’s the only time of the year we immerse ourselves, no doubt, in documentaries and shorts that show the reality of the misery and social needs, that reflect, in a general way, all the things that worry us today: the future, change, society, poverty, censorship, individual freedoms and the perspectives of life.
February 28 in the Fresa y Chocolate [Strawberry and Chocolate] room they projected “Everything in the Past Was Better” by Zoe García, and “The Future is Now” by Sandra Ramos; two excellent, very young directors who, I, despite not having much knowledge of film, think have enriched the documentary story of Cuba with their projects. At the end of the showing there was a “discussion” where the filmmakers went to the front to answer questions from the public. There was also a moderator and a man who didn’t know exactly what he was doing there, but who called on the public by pointing to them and inviting them to speak (I should say that I didn’t have the luck to be called on, despite being among the few of us who raised our hands).
The moderator quickly announced that the discussion would last about 5 minutes: the managers of the night’s party, in the same Fresa y Chocolate room, couldn’t allow the discussion to be extended because people were waiting anxiously in the patio. He also noted that those of us who had enjoyed the “premiere” had no right to be at the party because it was by invitation only, and said in passing that we shouldn’t waste our time hiding in the bathroom because they would throw us out. The uncomfortable questions never came, and the answers were left hanging in the air. Even a boy wanted to know why they didn’t bring the festival to other parts of the country, and one of the moderators answered, “We showed it where we could.” Afterwards she talked for the remaining minutes (speaking about the excessive subjectivity of some images), which seemed to me an overly lengthy speech from the moderator.
Still, in spite of not having any real discussion, we connect a lot with the screen and we close the presentation with a phrase from her (the moderator): “We must continue pushing the wall.”
* "There was no discussion" is the name of Fidel Castro’s Reflection, published about his meeting with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner.
Clarification: Because of connection problems I can’t check to see if these documentaries and shorts are on the Internet and put links to them. If anyone knows of any links where those interested can see them, please share them in the comments. To see the official site, click here.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.