Photo: Icaic

Thirteen films by Cuban filmmakers are up for a Coral Award at the 40th International Festival of New Latin America Cinema, in the categories of Feature length, Fictional Short, Documentary, Animation, and Debut; as well as one for Post-production, five in Unpublished Screenplay, and 13 Film Posters.

A score of titles by Cuban filmmakers were also included in all the sections not in competition, recognition of their quality.

We have previously referred to two of the films selected to compete in the fiction category: Inocencia (Innocence) by Alejandro Gil, and Nido de mantis (Mantis’ Nest) by Arturo Sotto. Thus we turn to Insumisas, from the prize-winning Fernando Pérez, who worked together with Swiss filmmaker Laura Cazador on both the screenplay and directing.

The film is based on real events: the life of a Swiss woman who arrived in the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa at the beginning of the 19th century. Dressed as a man and using the name Enrique Faber, she successfully practiced medicine and even married a local woman.

According to Pérez’s previous statements, while gender transgression is part of the story, the directors attempted to portray Enriqueta as a woman ahead of her time, who transcended social and moral limitations of all kinds.

Also competing from Cuba in fiction, but this time in the medium-length and shorts category, are: Cerdo by Yunior García; Frágil by Sheyla Pool;Los amantes by Alán González; and I Love Lotus by Patricia Ramos. The latter also has a documentary, Alicia, screening in the non-competitive “The Hour of the Short” section.

Dedicated to Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the Festival will see the screening of this classic Strawberry and Chocolate, co-directed alongside Juan Carlos Tabío. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1994 Oscars. Photo: Icaic

Vying for the Coral Award in the Documentary category are: Los viejos heraldos by Luis Alejandro Yero, and Sergio Corrieri, más allá de “Memorias…” by Luisa Marisy.

As its name indicates, the latter is dedicated to Cuban actor Sergio Corrieri (1938 - 2008). Written and directed by his daughter, it was produced by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) and the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center. The film approaches the life and work of the star of Memories of Underdevelopment, Soy Cuba, Mella, Baraguá and El Hombre de Maisinicú.

Two Cuban titles were selected for the Animation contest: Encuentro muy cercano by Pol Chaviano, and Mamiya CR7 by Danny de León and Eisman Sánchez. An equal number compete in the Debut category: El viaje extraordinario de Celeste García by Arturo Infante, and Un traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso (Cuba, Canada). Meanwhile, representing Cuba in the Post-production category is En caliente, by Fabien Pisani.

It is encouraging that Cuban filmmakers have captured the attention with five titles vying for the Unpublished Screenplay Award: A.M- P.M by Amilcar Salatti González (who just received the XV SGAE Julio Alejandro Film Screenplay Award delivered at the 56th Gijón International Film Festival, Asturias); El bálsamo de Casanova by Serguei Svoboda Verdaguer; La nueva ruta by Joanna Vidal; La pelota roja by Carlos Lechuga and Fabián Suárez; and El soldado perfecto by Pavel Giroud Airea (Cuba, Colombia).

The list of Cuban posters in competition is long. There are thirteen, two of them with Germany, of which those of Insumisas, Nido de mantis, and Sergio Corrieri, más allá de “Memorias…”stand out.

Fernando Pérez, 2007 National Film Prize winner, has won six Coral Awards for his work. This year he competes with Insumisas. Photo:

A total of 18 Cuban titles also feature in different non-competitive sections. In the Fiction section: El regreso by Blanca Rosa Blanco and Alberto Luberta. In the Documentary section: Mujeres… de la basura al bienestar by Lizette Vila and Ingrid León Vila; Chucho Valdés… El niño que lleva dentro by Ángel Alderete; and Los muñequitos de Matanzas, la leyenda en ruta by Julia Mirabal.

The documentaries El Comandante Guevara entró a la muerte and Ñancahuazú, both by Jorge Fuentes, will have a special screening. The first features the testimony of people who saw or talked with Che in the last moments of his life, campesinos of Quebrada del Yuro, La Higuera and Vallegrande and soldiers of the Bolivian army; while the second studies the beginning of the guerrilla struggle.

It should be recalled that the Festival is dedicated to Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and will thus see screenings of Memories of Underdevelopment; A Cuban Fight Against Demons and Strawberry and Chocolate. One of the event Galas will see the premiere of the film Yuli, a co-production of Spain, Cuba, the UK and Germany, directed by Icíar Bollaín, which tells the story of Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta.

Given that the Festival is making use of new technologies to bring young people, filmmakers, and the public closer, it is not surprising that as part of the program, ICAIC’s Animation Studios will present a videogame, Cine en Cuba (Film in Cuba), to celebrate the 40th edition of the event.

Iván Giroud, president of the Festival, noted in a press conference that a total of 2,032 films were submitted, of which the selection committee evaluated 1,438, with 373 selected to feature on the program.

The Festival continues to be of huge interest to filmmakers from both Latin American and the rest of the world, keen to see their films screened in Havana.

Despite the known financial difficulties, the fact that in this 40th edition of the Festival Cuban filmmakers have been selected to participate in all the Coral Award official categories, as well as in the non-competitive sections, is a very positive sign of things to come.