Cuba Cinematography (2003)

By | December 3, 2021

The silent period, 1897-1930

In January 1897 a representative and operator of the Lumière, Gabriel Veyre, made the first screenings in Havana, and in February he made the first film shot on the island, Simulacro de incendio, lasting one minute, about a simulated intervention by the firefighters of the city. The second war of independence against Spain (of which Cuba was a colony), which began in 1895, was in full swing; in February 1898 the sinking of the American battleship Maine in the port of Havana provoked the military intervention of the United States against Spain, which was followed, a few months later, by the independence of Cuba (under strict US military control). In the same year the actor José E. Casasús signed the first short film shot by a Cuban, El brujo desapareciendo, who, with a shooting trick, staged the disappearance of a magician. In 1905 Pablo Santos and Jesús Artigas founded the Compañía Cinematográfica Habanera (initially only for distribution, and from 1907 also for production), active until 1919, which was the first and most consistent attempt of a national industry; since 1912 the two partners also published “Cuba cinematográfica”, the first magazine entirely dedicated to cinema. In 1905 the Actualidades room was inaugurated, the first to be used solely for screenings; in 1910 there were already about two hundred.In 1906 Enrique Díaz Quesada, the most significant filmmaker of the silent era, shot his first short film, El parque de Palatino, about an amusement park, in which he already made skilful use of the camera with shots in constant motion and continuous panoramas. In the same year he made La salida de palacio de Don Tomás Estrada Palma, a political propaganda documentary for the newly elected Cuban president on the occasion of the so-called August war, which provoked the second armed intervention of the United States; another important documentary of his was El epílogo del ‘Maine’ (1912, together with José G. González), in which he filmed the recovery of the wreck of the American ship for the exhumation of the bodies and in view of an investigation into the explosion of 1898 which was never carried out because the hull was immediately sunk. In 1907 he made his first short film with a Cuban subject, Un duelo a orillas del Almendares, in 1913 his first feature film, Manuel García, rey de los campos de Cuba, about a hero of the war of independence, and finally in 1920 the first serial, El genio del mal, in ten episodes. His conspicuous production was destroyed in 1923, due to a fire, a few months after his death. For Cuba 2009, please check hyperrestaurant.com.

Another figure among the most important of pre-revolutionary Cuban cinema was that of Ramón Peón, whose directing activity extended from 1920 to 1960. His only fully surviving silent fiction feature, La virgen de la Caridad (1930), history of a young peasant cheated of his property by an overbearing feudal lord. The film features an inventive sequence shot and alternate editing inspired by David W. Griffith. Three reels of El veneno de un beso (1929), with Antonio Perdices, known as ‘the Cuban Valentino’, also survive of his production from the silent period. In 1929 Peón created Barrio Peón Perdices Pictures (BPP Pictures) with him and Arturo del Barrio, the second ambitious attempt at national production and distribution, which however only lasted until 1932.

The Eighties and subsequent developments

Two lines coexisted in the decade 1980-1990: that of the in-depth investigation of individuality, roles and typologies of a society in constant transformation and yet burdened by strong contradictions, and a second more inclined to comedy, aimed at a mature but eager for fun audience., also critical of his own faults. García Espinosa in Son… o no son (1980) reprized the cross between comedy and parody already present in Aventuras de Juan Quin Quin. In Solás’s Cecilia (1982), loosely based on the historical novel by Cuba Villaverde published in 1882, the historical and literary components are transfigured in the visual language, while imaginary events and characters are integrated, in a new way of narrating and depicting. The film was accused of irreverence towards the great Cuban writer and aestheticization of history, and provoked strong criticism of the ICAIC, which led in 1982 to the replacement of Guevara with García Espinosa. With Guardafronteras (1980) Cortázar narrated the exploits of daily heroism during the armed defense of the Revolution in the early 1960s. Vega with Habanera (1984), Jesús Díaz with Polvo rojo (1981) and Lejanía (1985), Solás with Un hombre de éxito (1986), Pineda Barnet with La bella del Alhambra (1990), created works of great psychological finesse, in what García Espinosa called “daily dramaturgy”. Authors from the documentary came to light: Daniel Díaz Torres with Jíbaro (1982) and Otra mujer (1986), Giral with Plácido (1986), about the mulatto poet shot by the Spaniards in 1844, Fernando Pérez with Clandestinos (1987). In the comedy appeared, with great public success, Se permuta (1983) and Plaff (1988) by Juan Carlos Tabío. In 1987 the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV, inaugurated in December 1986, began its first courses. In 1988, three creation groups were established at the ICAIC, thus giving greater autonomy to creative and productive work. of many material and financial resources. The ICAIC found itself in the same serious difficulties as the rest of the country. The need for self-financing was imposed, and only the co-productions allowed the continuation of the activity. The decade was however characterized, in addition to activities of proven authors, even from the emergence of some new personality. Alicia en el pueblo de maravillas (1991) by Díaz Torres raised a great controversy for having sarcastically highlighted the contradictions of the system and the character idiosyncrasies of the Cuban citizen.

In the following years the analysis of the characters’ inner reality was accentuated and deepened, the language became less experimental, the styles were differentiated, while a critical look was proposed on arrival and on the small advancing corruption. F. Pérez with Hello, Hemingway (1990) and Madagascar (1994) proposed a cinema of poetry and strong introspection, whose female characters question their own reality and goals and confront them with desire and disillusionment. JC Tabío with El elefante y la bicicleta (1994) achieved international success, retracing the magical experiences of the old itinerant cinema. García Espinosa with El plano (1993) experimented with video, and with Reina y Rey (1994), a tribute to Umberto D. (1952) by Vittorio De Sica, he faced some contradictions of Cuban society. Solás with El siglo de las luces (1993), based on a work by the Cuban writer A. Carpentier on the penetration of the ideas of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment in Latin America, made one of the best films of the decade. Gutiérrez Alea with Fresa y chocolate (1993; Strawberry and chocolate), directed together with JC Tabío, wanted to tell the story of a homosexual and the intolerance he is forced to face, while Guantanamera (1995), again with Tabío, was the his latest film in which the events of the transport of a coffin and the vicissitudes caused by bureaucratic quibbles are followed. Arturo Sotto Díaz stood out in 1996 with Pon tu pensamiento en mí and the following year with Amor vertical, in which real and imaginary intertwine in a subtly poetic language. Cuban cinema has opened the new millennium with another work by Solás, Miel para Oshún (2001), which engages with digital technologies using a language suited to the new media, whose moderate costs allow that more widespread access to cinematographic expression that García Espinosa foresaw in his essay in 1969. The 2002 Cannes Film Festival proposed Nada +, the first feature film by the young director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti. In this work, the author crosses the cinema of his masters and of the Sixties, proposing a polite and poetic use of computer graphics, but also polemical towards its disruptive and hypnotic abuse. whose moderate costs allow that more widespread access to cinematographic expression that García Espinosa advocated in his 1969 essay. The 2002 Cannes Film Festival proposed Nada +, the first feature film by the young director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti. In this work, the author crosses the cinema of his masters and of the Sixties, proposing a polite and poetic use of computer graphics, but also polemical towards its disruptive and hypnotic abuse. whose moderate costs allow that more widespread access to cinematographic expression that García Espinosa advocated in his 1969 essay. The 2002 Cannes Film Festival proposed Nada +, the first feature film by the young director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti. In this work, the author crosses the cinema of his masters and of the sixties, proposing a polite and poetic use of computer graphics, but also polemical towards its disruptive and hypnotic abuse.

Cuba Cinematography