ANN MARIE STOCK
Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Introduction. Screening an Island Nation in Transition
[...] To sum up, then, StreetFilmmakers of this generation are individuals with formal training in filmmaking or a related field who came of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Products of the Special Period and emboldened by their impatience and passion for making films, they developed an entrepreneurial spirit in order to resolver. Seeging themselves as active agents in charting their future, this generation asks questions, takes risks, and poses challenges. They are comfortable using celluloid, video, and digital media and sometimes combine all of them in a single project. Many are involved in some way with the national film institute, but virtually all operate as “free agents”, carrying out nonindustry projects as well. Whether working within or outside the industry, they succeed at mobilizing contacts and capital from the the island and far beyond. Adept at negotiation, they serve as mediators between Cuba’s autochthonous traditions and international culture producers and consumers. This generation is plugged in to the global communications networks-and connected.
Street Filmmakers are industrious, ingenious, and innovative. Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, Esteban Insausti, Pavel Giroud, Léster Hamlet, Arturo Infante, Luis Leonel León, Humberto Padrón, Ian Padrón, Gustavo Pérez, and Waldo Ramírez are among the Street Filmmakers who have helped change the course of Cuba’s revolucionary cinema. And their efforts are already influencing up-and-coming audiovisual artists like Carlos Barba, Susana Barriga, Alejandro Brugués, Karel Ducases Manzano, Sandra Gómez Jiménez, Inti Herrera, Ernesto Piña Rodríguez, Jeffrey Puente García, Alejandro Ramírez, Alina Rodríguez Abreu, Asori ( Amado Soto Ricardo), Hilda Elena Vega, Daniel Vera, Aram Vidal, and dozens of others [...]
Chapter 7 MAKING SPACE FOR NEW INTERVENTIONS. A montage from the national exhibit of new filmmakers.
Cuban cinema has earned the respect of the population because we have spoken with sincerity about our reality. Humberto Solás.
Revisiting the Classics: Carlos Barba Mines Revolucionary Cinema for Material
Throughout this study, Street Filmmakers express their admiration for Cuba’s film tradition. For one young artist, Cuba’s revolutionary cinema is absolutely essential to his creative expression. Carlos Barba draws upon classic island films for virtually all of his documentaries. From his base in Santiago de Cuba, this Street Filmmaker works as a promoter of his island’s cinema. He helps organize film screenings and events; serves as a point person bringing together local, regional, and national organization; and paves the way for ICAIC teams coming to town to film. Barba has helped coordinate the restoration of several blocks in preparation a period film, for example, and often is called on to help local officials and agencies understand the importance of attracting such projects. Las Gallegas, the family restaurant operated by his aunts, has become a favorite meeting spot for industry directors, actors, and technicians when visiting this provincial capital.
Barba was born in 1978, and even before reaching his thirtieth birthday, he had made several documentaries. The bulk of his audiovisual output chronicles Cuban filmmaking. Barba’s work, Ecos de un final ( Echoes of an End, 2002), proffers testimony by some of the nonprofessional actors who participated in the final sequence of Humberto Solás’s Miel para Oshún ( Honey for Oshún). Another, titled Memorias de Lucía (2003), compiles reflections by the actresses in Solás’s legendary film Lucía (1968), nearly forty years after its making. Yet another, Mujer que espera ( Woman Who Waits, 2005), is devoted to the renowned screen actress Isabel Santos. Barba’s admiration for this talented artist is evident in this homage to her. More recently, he completed Canción para Rachel ( A song for Rachel, 2008), an eighty-minute collective reflection on the musical La bella del Alhambra ( The Belle of the Alhambra Theater, 1990), by Enrique Pineda Barnet. In my conversation with Carlos Barba shortly after he completed the film, I was fascinated by his ingenuity. He managed to compile interview footage of all the key participants, despite the fact that they now lived in four different countries. It was easy enough to film the testimony of the Cuba-based director Pineda Barnet, actress Verónica Lynn, photographer Raúl Rodríguez Cabrera, and actor Jorge Martínez. More complicated, though, was documenting the impressions of actress Beatriz Valdés in Venezuela, actress Isabel Moreno and editor Jorge Abello in Miami, and composer-conductor Gonzalo Romeu in Mexico. Committed to including the perspectives of these Bella participants despite the distances separating them, Barba devised the following solution: He got in touch with each of them via e-mail to request their assistance. Would they be willing to address a series of questions he would provide, and do so in front of camera? And could they then send him a mini-DV with the filmed interview? He also supplied some details about preferred framing and artistic design. All agreed to collaborate, and thus Barba was able to move forward with the project as he had envisioned it. The result, in the words of Pineda Barnet, is “very moving, beautiful and intelligent”. (15) It is also proof that Cuban Street Filmmakers are not reluctant to engage with individuals-including Cubans-in locales far from home.
In addition to making films that record Cuba’s cinema tradition and promoting Santiago de Cuba as a site for audiovisual endeavors, Barba is also a film critic. He frequently contributes interviews and essays to the ICAIC’ Cine Cubano, the Editorial Oriente’s Revista SIC the festival bulletin Cine Pobre Hoy, and several other publications in Spain. And Barba publicizes developments in Cuba’s film world; his e-mail distribution list circulate information to friends and film fans across the island and overseas.
A pioneer of revolucionary filmmaking in Cuba and director of the Cine Pobre festival, Humberto Solás, in a recent documentary by Carlos Barba. Courtesy of Carlos Barba.
The experiences of this Santiago-based media artist enable us to preciate the effervescence in audiovisual activity beyond Cuba’s capital. Barba and other filmmakers in the provinces connect with one another and with a variety of cultural organizations so as to achieve their audiovisual production goals. Oftentimes, it is at the Muestra Nacional where they first meet and establish contacts useful in opening doors to opportunities. Some display their films at the Festival Documental Santiago Álvarez in Memorian, held each, March in Santiago de Cuba. Founded by Lázara Herrera, Álvarez’s widow and president of the Santiago Álvarez Office in the ICAIC, this venue has grown from a small regional festival to a respectable international event. Others participate in the Cine Pobre Festival, scheduled for every other April in the picturesque town of Gibara. Conceptualized and presided over by Humberto Solás, this festival is also instrumental in linking Cubans-some working within and others outside the state apparatus-to their international counterparts.
Carlos Barba has effectively mined the island’s revolucionary cinema for raw material to create his documentaries. His efforts, undertaken as many of the founding fathers retire and still others pass away, are helping to preserve the memory of Cuban cinema. Through film projects, Carlos Barba and other Street Filmmakers like him are creating a visual record of the island’s rich film tradition and keeping alive the stories of its protagonists. Barba is undoubtedly making a meaningful contribution to Cuba’s cultural patrimony; at the same time, his selection of subject matter is eminently pragmatic. By choosing topics of interest to the national film institute and by rubbing shoulders with industry professionals, Barba has been able to hone his skills and garner new opportunities. He was invited to assist Rebeca Chávez on the ICAIC film Ciudad en rojo ( City in red, 2007) and take care o some casting for Fernando Pérez’s film about José Martí.
ANN MARIE STOCK
Is associate professor or Hispanic studies and film studies at the College of Willian and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. She is editor of Framming Latin American Cinema: Contemporary Critical Perspectives.
From the book: On location in Cuba. Street Filmmaking during Times of Transition. The University of North Carolina Press, 2009.