Text by: Rubén Padrón Garriga, Maysel Bello Cruz and Darío Alejandro Escobar.
You could have to like Cuba to make good cinema about it; that also means betting that every one those that find it irresistible slot in it. From his Young Film Festival (ICAIC) guide, the defense of prohibited works, the opportune demand for a regulatory framework for independent cinema, the disinterested and affable teaching of a novice who faces a camera for the primary time or insurrection of a street protest, Fernando Pérez has done quite a bit for his country and its cinema. His indisputable work has established him as crucial living filmmaker we now have on the island, but his actions and vision make him certainly one of the most dear figures in Cuban culture.
On this interview, Luz Nocturna explores his facet as an artist and thinker, his particular vision of cinema and the social processes we’re experiencing today. Fernando supports his ideas with the courage and independence that comes from being a transparent and authentic man who wants a Cuba just like the one Martí dreamed of, and the whole lot that stands in the way in which hinders him.
You made your debut as a director of feature movies with Clandestinos and, for greater than 30 years, you could have moved through various genres and styles. How do you’re feeling that has modified your way of constructing movies throughout your profession?
In some ways. I wish to make movies of all styles. I’m not affiliated with a single way of narrating. Actually, analyzing my filmography, I feel that there are two lines: one which is more classic within the narrative sense, with Clandestinos, Hello Hemingway, José Martí: el ojo del canario; and one other with a cinema that’s more in regards to the metaphorical, with a way more subjective language, with Madagascar, La vida es silbar, Madrigal and essentially the most recent one which I’m doing.
I’m a filmmaker, but I’m also a movie buff. Watching movies was my way of learning cinema, although in fact I learned quite a bit as an assistant director. I at all times attempt to renew myself. I attempt to go down a special path that is just not determined by what I already know. I believe I’ve kept that spirit.
In your cinematographic work, two great movies of the Cuban historical drama stand out: Clandestinos and José Martí: el ojo del canario. On some occasions, they’ve even been used as audiovisual material for history classes. Nonetheless, they’re removed from any instructive story in regards to the context and sacralization of the figures. Do you’re thinking that there needs to be a obligatory relationship between film production of a historical nature and didactic intentionality for the general public? If you approach these themes and figures from our history, what are you in search of as a creator?
I believe there are a lot of ways to approach history. The primary is that of the historian and have to be marked, so far as possible, by objectivity. The historian tries to approach the historical event as precisely as possible. Then again, the approach of art to history is just not necessarily based on that premise. It have to be based on the historical event, but from one other perspective.
If the historian is answerable for the overall, the artist goes to the actual. I’m going to place an example. Everyone knows what happened within the Burning of Bayamo, the historical event and what it meant within the struggle for independence. Nonetheless, I remember reading a novel called La concordia, wherein a chapter narrates that Burning of Bayamo, but based on the individuals who didn’t want to depart their homes for whatever reason. Inside the same historical event, there have been individuals and situations that weren’t the identical. That impacted me quite a bit, because I believe that’s what defines the performance of art when coping with history.
I attempted to try this, not a lot in Clandestinos as in José Martí: El ojo del canario. Within the latter, I used to be faced with a figure that has a really powerful meaning for each Cuban, but however it has also grow to be a stone statue; a certain sanctity surrounds him. I needed to get him down from that statue. I think that Martí has come all the way down to us in such a strong way not only because he was a wonderful poet, but in addition because he viewed and practiced politics with poetic sensitivity. That was what I attempted to precise within the film.
With Clandestinos it happened to me that, since I used to be a young person, I wanted my first film to be about that subject. And I also needed to walk a path that I didn’t know in fiction and an motion movie allowed me to do it. So, I attempted to humanize those characters: an Ernesto who was afraid of torture, a Nereida who followed Ernesto more out of affection than out of political awareness and, most significantly, that they were young individuals who danced and enjoyed themselves like several neighborhood kid. At all times respecting the epic and the historical event narrated from the motion cinema.
Havana is a continuing character in just about all your work. In some, you show it splendorous; in others, rebellious, but in addition in ruins. How much stays to be told about that Havana and methods to do it, moving away from the simplistic and binary story of the socialist paradise or the totalitarian hell?
I feel Cuban, but very Havanan. And it happens to me that my emotions vibrate with those of the town. In my film experiences outside of Cuba, I don’t feel the identical way. That is where I feel in my element, where I’m more creative. I recognize myself in every event that happens. And what most characterizes our city is that anything can occur.
I actually think so: Havana as a cinematographic space is infinite and that has to do with the individuals who inhabit the town. Havana without its people could be just scenery. This city is filled with stories, not only without delay, but back in time. I believe the young filmmakers are going to inform them. My movies are there and now I’m attempting to make one other one called Nocturno. It’s within the script phase. I’ll try to precise cinematographically what I even have lived and others have lived from 1961 to the current. In fact, with its time jumps. I hope I even have time.
Cinema, from the very starting of the Revolution, has been certainly one of the areas of art wherein there’s essentially the most public debate. Filmmakers have at all times been artists committed to the destiny of their country. How do you see that process today? How a lot of these debates have moved to social networks and what ways do you discover to intervene once you think it’s obligatory?
I even have a melancholic character and that’s the reason nostalgia sometimes dominates me, although I don’t prefer it. I wish to do it from the dynamics of the current. Nonetheless, I remember the Nineteen Sixties with nostalgia. Not only in Cuba, but in addition on the planet. Every part seemed possible. My generation was changing this country. But really, from the essences. Every part that needed to be modified was being modified. The dynamics of thought vibrated and, although everyone didn’t think the identical, the predominant ideas were those of change. It’s true that there have been some ways to propose that change, nevertheless it was discussed publicly.
After that point, that freedom has been limited. Above all, within the mass media. There, the debates and panels almost at all times show more a predetermined conclusion of a subject than the method itself. I believe it’s an ideal loss.
Now, with the networks, many young people have found the space that they don’t find within the more traditional media. I see the networks as something positive, but in addition very dangerous, because they’ve grow to be a spot highly contaminated by extremism. It’s navigated very superficially and there isn’t any exchange with depth and respect. In fact, light discussions are also needed. Not the whole lot needs to be complex.
Aside from those I even have to speak with, they don’t attract my attention, although I’ve needed to resort to them to precise ideas that aren’t published in other spaces. In any case, I even have at all times tried to precise the ideas that move me as an artist and as a citizen through my movies. I believe that’s the most effective method to participate. Except emergencies.
You could have stated in other interviews that you just began at ICAIC as a messenger, with none contact within the film world, or much training by way of technique and method. The institution itself helped in your formation and opened up opportunities so that you can grow. Today we now have academies corresponding to FAMCA or EICTV, but what role are these institutions playing today — especially ICAIC — in accompanying the mental development of Cuban film professionals? Do you’re thinking that that today a young man, the son of a postman, has the identical opportunities that you just needed to grow to be a director?
They do not need the identical opportunities since the context is just not the identical. In 1958 I dreamed of constructing movies, but the reality is that I never thought I’d make it. When ICAIC was created in 1959, it was a dream for me. I entered ICAIC filling out a form they usually called me to be a Production Assistant C. On paper it was that, but in real life I used to be a messenger. I lived from here to there carrying filming permits and running errands. Nonetheless, there was a new generation being formed as filmmakers. There have been two ways:, the ICAIC sent some young people to check abroad; and we others stayed here learning in practice.
ICAIC was a production center and, at the identical time, a college. And once I say “school,” it wasn’t an academy, thank God. What was done was to work and argue continually. That was breathed within the atmosphere of those years. That they had film debates, a library where the newest got here, not only about cinema, but in addition world literature. I do not forget that I used to be an assistant within the library, I also helped with the Russian translations and the primary edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude fell into my hands when García Márquez was not yet known, as happened later. I also remember a pamphlet that was published on the newest aesthetic discussions, structuralism when it began, the New Wave, anyway….
And never only the ICAIC. It was the time. I used to be a mid-level technician and, once I entered university, I had Mirta Aguirre, Camila Henríquez Ureña, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Beatriz Maggi as professors. Each was a Master. We, those of us who were starting at the moment, grew up on that fertile ground. That at all times accompanies me.
To recuperate that, we are able to do what I even have at all times defended from EICTV. In other words, that schools aren’t academic, but spaces for creative searches. I still think that cinema is learned, but not taught. Almodóvar also says so. Now young people even have technology of their favor. I made my first fiction film once I was forty years old. In any case, cinema is just not easy to do. Not yesterday, not now. In all times it can be obligatory to fight and persevere to realize it.
Last 12 months two very notable photographers who were frequent in your work died: Raúl Pérez Ureta and Jaime Prendes. How was it working with them?
It’s the primary time that I’m going to speak in regards to the lack of Raúl and Jaime. Raúl was my brother. We grew up together from the ICAIC Newsreel. He had a really particular nobility. My next film will likely be dedicated to him. Just about all my cinema is with him. The pandemic greatly affected him, but such is life. My generation is already ending.
I met Jaime Prendes on the Isla de la Juventud. He was a really special human being. He was very free, very creative, very unassuming. With none vanity. His death also had an ideal impact on me since it happened suddenly. Assimilating those two deaths has not been easy.
You lately finished shooting your most up-to-date film, Riquimbili. What are you able to tell us about it?
After having made Insumisa, which is a way more classic narrative film, I desired to return to a cinema where I’d play more with the narrative structures and Riquimbili is about that. It’s several stories intertwined by a plot line that may change quite a bit. Although the genre that mainly defines it’s black humor, there’s also a tribute to other genres corresponding to melodrama, musical, etc.
It has me in tenterhooks because, until I finish it, I don’t know if it’s going to work. The method has been complicated since the pandemic has delayed it longer than usual. That had never happened to me. There was a time when I assumed it could not come out, but luckily, we did it.
And about Cuentos de un día más?
It was a really nice experience of solidarity coordinated by ICAIC. At a time when the pandemic was becoming more aggressive and just about all of us were in compulsory confinement, the ICAIC presidency had the concept of convening this project. Young people and in addition specialists of my generation participated.
I actually enjoyed it due to the way in which it was done. Note that I believe something protected us, because sometimes without permission we went out to shoot and, without evaluating the ultimate artistic result, it seemed inconceivable, nevertheless it was done.
This process demonstrated the standard of human beings and the standard of execs that we now have. We will still do great things. All you could have to do is motivate them, give them the chance and the space. Cinema is just not an issue. Cinema is a contribution to the spirit of the nation.
In 2013, you were part, together with other filmmakers, of the group often known as G-20, an articulation for essentially the most visible proposal that sought to acknowledge independent audiovisual production. In 2019, Decree Law 373 was issued, which provides the legal framework for independent production firms. Some creators in the sector have branded it a “gag law”; others recognize its value for the event of audiovisual production in a self-managed way. As certainly one of the leaders of that proposal, how would you define independent cinema for the present Cuban context? How much has been achieved in its recognition and the way much stays to be done?
The G-20 was the top of a wider movement. For me, what marked that moment was the Assembly of Filmmakers. I miss that meeting quite a bit because today it not exists. Call me utopian, but I dreamed that it could proceed. Most of the demands were channeled through the G-20. Crucial were achieved over time. It took a protracted time, nevertheless it happened.
The Development Fund may be very vital, to provide an example. The way in which wherein the principles of the Development Fund were conceived is sort of open. In any case, while we’re fighting for a Film Law to come back out that regulates the activity, there’s a pending account, which is the exhibition. Because censorship continues to be going down over time.
It’s a lesson not learned. ICAIC, because the governing body, has every right to come to a decision what it exhibits or doesn’t exhibit, nevertheless it can’t be the one option for the range with which the Cuban audiovisual is expressed and can proceed to be expressed. Those spaces need to exist and open up without stigmatizing them. Until works are stopped being prohibited almost at all times for ideological reasons, there will likely be contradictions. That could be a pending discussion. And this is just not only about cinema; it also applies to all the humanities in Cuba.
Independent cinema without delay is the basic a part of Cuban film production. Even ICAIC itself is collaborating with independent production firms. Independent cinema is here to remain since it is the evolution of a production process that has lowered its costs through the event of technology, but in addition the evolution of our society.
A while ago it was asked through a questionnaire what we understood by independent cinema and the answers were very varied. In my view, such a production is defined by diversity, because independence is given by oneself, if we’re talking about artistic independence. I consider myself an independent filmmaker making movies with ICAIC, making movies without ICAIC, but at all times making movies that I even have desired to make. That’s an attitude. Young individuals are going to proceed creating their production firms beyond the decrees. It is sweet that the decrees exist, but that technique of evolution is what’s going to shape the truth of Cuban cinema.
I even have very nice memories of the way in which many young individuals who I didn’t even know expressed themselves. And it was very sad that the dialogue didn’t proceed. The truth is that it was going to be very difficult to reconcile the opinions of the N/27 group, because there have been all types of opinions, but I believe that there was a scarcity of effort, a will on the a part of the authorities for that dialogue to proceed. I believe the range of the group must have been handled, as a substitute of constructing a variety to see with whom they talked or didn’t talk. That marked the break.
That form of thing makes a whole lot of young people grow to be frustrated. I even have the impression that, because of the pandemic and the economic reorganization, many young people have broken down and are leaving. Increasingly more young individuals are leaving because they can not find the space to precise themselves and develop. That’s the worst thing that may occur to us as a rustic. I feel that young individuals are at all times faced with what they’re allowed to do and never with what they need or need to do based on their very own ideas, which are sometimes different from ours.
Those restrictions need to be lifted. Because the restrictions of the economy need to be lifted. I’m not an economist, but we now have taken so long to make some decisions that now could be the worst time they usually don’t give answers. The official discourse goes a technique and reality on the opposite. That may be very harmful. People need answers, they need dialogue. How you can maintain a dialogue? At the extent of the opposition? I don’t need to be an opponent, but how am I going to follow you, if what you tell me has nothing to do with my reality?
I’m very concerned that point is running out and the fracture is getting greater. And, so long as I can, I’ll proceed to fight alongside the young individuals who want to alter the country in a positive way. The change goes to come back from the young; it’s not going to come back through the “established channels.” They will kind of make mistakes, however the change is natural and it will come from them.
Imperialism goes to be there, the CIA goes to be there; it’s just like the story by Monterroso, but we are able to’t rely upon that. We now have to bring about change for our own good. So long as we remain closed, with the identical discourse; so long as our media aren’t opened up and the Mesa Redonda TV program follows a single line, this is just not going to enhance.
Ideas triumph because they’re the ideas that an era needs; they can not be imposed. Participation mechanisms need to be created where people can really do it. Prohibition and repression aren’t going to steer us to a greater country. If the CIA and all these people manage to make a soft coup, it’s because we haven’t modified what we should always have modified way back. I don’t want that, nor am I focused on Biden’s politicking. To me that country appears to be heading for fascism, but we cannot rely upon that. We now have to realize a more plural country, as Martí wanted. That was the concept of the Revolution for which we fought. And I feel a revolutionary.
What future do you expect for Cuban cinema?
Relatively than the longer term, I prefer to think in regards to the present. The current that we manage to develop now will determine the longer term.
* This text was published in Luz Nocturna, OnCuba reproduces it with the express authorization of its publishers.