Cuba Cinema

By | December 16, 2021

The Lumière cinema arrives in Cuba in 1897 thanks to a Frenchman, G. Veyre, to whom we owe the first views shot in the country. The film trade took off rapidly from the beginning of the 20th century and in the 1910s a decent production of feature films developed.

Díaz Quesada, author of the first fictional feature film Manuel García (1913), represents the most important personality of the silent period, making films of a historical-patriotic character based on characters from Cuban history and subsequently a series of films on hot topical issues such as El tabaquero de Cuba (1918), La Zafra (1919) and Arroyto (1922), his latest film. On another front, far from social themes, works R. Peón, who can be considered the second father of Cuban cinema. He was responsible for Realidad (1920) and La Virgen de la Caridad (1930), the last work before emigrating to Hollywood and Mexico.

In 1937 the first sound feature film was released, La serpiente roja, signed by E. Caparros, which has as its subject the adventures of a Chinese policeman. But Cuban cinema is now in sharp decline: the overwhelming Hollywood production that invaded the market after the First World War is joined, with the advent of sound, by the onslaught of Mexican films. The PECUSA production house, set up by Peón after his return to Cuba, is the first to work on a modern industrial basis, specializing in genre packaging, especially musical comedies made on the Hollywood and Mexican model. For Cuba 2001, please check

At the end of the 1940s the Socarrás government founded a Cinema Bank and the Estudios Nacionales directed by M. Alonso, author of the most important film of the period, Siete muertos a plazo fijo (1949), a thriller shot in the Hollywood way. Always Alonso would later become the head of the National Institute for the Development of the Film Industry, created by Batista in 1955. However, until the revolution of 1959, Cuban cinema, which had definitively fallen into the hands of foreign markets, did not achieve anything conspicuous, except in field of unofficial, amateur and avant-garde production, which developed from the first half of the 1940s. In this context, in addition to the Spanish N. Almendros, the future protagonists of revolutionary cinema are formed: J. García Espinosa and T. Gutiérrez Alea, who in 1956 made El megano, a denouncing medium- length film prohibited by the regime.

Only three months after the revolution, in March 1959, the law on cinematography was promulgated by F. Castro, on the basis of which the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficas, under the direction of A. Guevara) was founded. the birth of the new Cuban cinema. In a few years, the entire film process controlled by the ICAIC was completely nationalized and a dense network of professional and cultural structures was created: in addition to the theoretical and technical training school, the film library, the cinema museum, many film clubs, cinemas furniture that guarantee widespread circulation throughout the country, and finally the historic Cine Cubano magazine, still active. In the wake of the revolution, many foreign filmmakers arrive at Cuba: J. Ivens, R. Karmen, Ch. Marker, A. Gatti, Cuba Zavattini. Gutiérrez Alea (Historias de la revolución, 1960; Las doces sillas, 1962; Muerte de un burócrata, 1966), García Espinosa (El joven rebelde, 1961; Las aventuras de Juan Quin Quin, 1967), J. Massip (Guantanamo, 1965-67) and others who practice and theorize a cinema of non-dogmatic commitment, capable of critically representing the revolutionary process in progress.

In 1966 H. Solas made his debut with Manuela, a medium-length film with a subject inspired by the real events of a girl of the people who joins the revolutionary guerrilla to avenge her mother murdered by the Batiste and gradually discovers love and political conscience. His next film, Lucía (1968), is a triple portrait of the Cuban woman set in different eras: the turn of the century, the thirties and the sixties. In the same period, Memorias del subdesarrollo (1968) by Gutiérrez Alea, on the crisis of a bourgeois intellectual who failed to integrate into the revolutionary process, Odisea del general José (1969) by J. Fraga, which has as its subject the war of independence of 1895, e The primera carga al machete by MO Gomez, which tells another historical fact with the technique of the film-investigation, the clash between the Spaniards and the patriots in 1868.

The production of fiction is accompanied by an intense documentary activity which highlights S. Alvarez and A. Roldán.

In the seventies, once the driving force of the revolution diminished, a cinema of historical reconstruction by S. Giral, E. Pineda Barnet and M. Perez predominates. However, the attitude to critical observation of the problems of society in transformation, which represents the characterizing feature of Cuban production, is not exhausted, and indeed is renewed in the 1980s. While the average of national films produced in recent times and the number of co-productions gradually increase, almost all the old masters continue to work and new personalities such as JC Tabio, R. Diaz, D. Torres, G. Orlando, LF Bernaza, are emerging. CR Diego, V. Casaus and others.

Cuba Cinema