On Location in Cuba

On Location in Cuba: Street Filmmaking during Times of Transition

ANN MARIE STOCK
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807894194_stock
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  • Book Info
    On Location in Cuba
    Book Description:

    The 1990s were a time of dramatic transformation for Cuba. With the collapse of its Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union, the island nation plummeted into an era of scarcity and uncertainty known as the Special Period, a time from which it emerged only slowly in the new century.On Location in Cubaviews these pivotal decades through the lens of cinema. Ann Marie Stock conducted hundreds of interviews and conversations in Cuba to examine individual artists' lives and creative output--including film, video, and audiovisual art. She explores the impact of the Cold War's end, the economic crisis that ensued, and the decentralization of the state's political, economic, and cultural apparatus.Stock focuses on what she calls Street Filmmaking--the production of emerging audiovisual artists who work outside the state film industry--to examine the island's transformation and changing notions of Cuban identity. Employing entrepreneurial approaches to producing art and to negotiating the exigencies of globalization, this younger generation of filmmakers offers fresh perspectives on what it means to be Cuban in an increasingly complex and connected world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0585-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  3. CREDITS
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Screening an Island Nation in Transition
    (pp. 1-32)

    The camera frames a faded newspaper clipping that depicts a tremendous gathering. The place is Havana, and the time is the 1960s. Tens of thousands of people crowd together in Revolution Square. Zoom out to a woman moving a magnifying glass over the photo. She seeks to focus on familiar faces, but the attempt is futile; the lens reveals only a gray mass. As an extreme close-up obliterates the image altogether, the female voice cries out, “Where am I,Dios mío,where am I?” The woman in this 1994 Cuban film cannot place herself in that photograph, nor in that...

  7. DOLLYBACK
    • 1 Documenting Tumultuous Times: NEW CULTURE ORGANIZATIONS PROFFER ALTERNATIVES
      (pp. 35-76)

      Filmmaking activity in Cuba’s national film institute declined dramatically in the 1990s. In the midst of the economic crisis and concomitant scarcity, it became exceedingly difficult to sustain the resource-intensive production. The Noticiero ICAIC Latinoamericano (ICAIC Latin American Newsreel) ceased to exist, after thirty years of uninterrupted production under the direction of Santiago Álvarez. The Animation Studio managed to keep its doors open, but only by contracting with foreign firms, and while the selling of services constituted a lifeline, it did nothing to guarantee the studio’s survival. Production of feature films and documentaries slowed dramatically—and then stalled out. When,...

    • 2 Establishing Community Media in the Mountains: TELEVISIÓN SERRANA STRENGTHENS HIGHLAND IDENTITY
      (pp. 77-105)

      As Cuba’s economic crisis worsened in the early 1990s and the ICAIC’s film production continued to plummet, a new community-based media organization came into being. In 1993, Televisión Serrana put down roots in the Granma province of the Sierra Maestra. Its mission: to “rescue the culture of peasant communities” in the region and “facilitate alternative communication for communities to . . . participate in the search for solutions to the problems that affect them.” TVS emerged to give voice to the local highlanders and affirm their identities, and it did so precisely when Cuba was stepping up its engagement with...

    • 3 Balancing Tradition and Innovation: THE NATIONAL ANIMATION STUDIO NEGOTIATES THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE
      (pp. 106-146)

      Memories of my first visit to the ICAIC’s Animation Studio are alternately bright and dim. It was in 1994, during the depths of the Special Period, when I first entered this modest facility. As I walked through it, the lights flickered on and off. Each time the darkness engulfed us, we stopped and waited. And each time the rooms brightened, the artists picked up their ink pens and paintbrushes and we resumed the tour. I recall being impressed by the beauty of the works in progress, the passion and perseverance of the animators despite difficult conditions, and the attentiveness of...

  8. CLOSE-UP
    • 4 Opening New Roads: JUAN CARLOS CREMATA MALBERTI REDEFINES REVOLUTIONARY FILMMAKING
      (pp. 149-174)

      A made-in-Cuba road movie competed in the 2005 Cannes International Film Festival. And it met with remarkable success.Viva Cubacame away with the Grand Prix Ecrans Juniors, marking the first time a Cuban film had obtained an award at this prestigious event.¹ Upon collecting the coveted prize, director Juan Carlos Cremata received a phone call from Cuba. It was the president’s office at the ICAIC congratulating him and wanting to discuss plans for distributing the film on the island. Such a gesture may seem pro forma. But it actually constituted a bold move, given the institute’s earlier rejection of...

    • 5 Promoting Popular Genres: PAVEL GIROUD REVISES CONCEPTIONS OF CUBAN CINEMA
      (pp. 175-205)

      It is customary for Cuban filmmakers working in the industry to get feedback from their peers while developing their projects. This exchange of ideas takes place informally, for the most part, but the ICAIC generally presents each new film in progress at some stage and facilitates a discussion afterward. When a rough cut of Pavel Giroud’s first featurelength film,La edad de la peseta(The Awkward Age,also translated asThe Silly Age,2005), was screened at the film institute, it impressed the filmmakers and other industry professionals in attendance. Some, however, expressed concern that the work did not seem...

    • 6 Filming in the Margins: ESTEBAN INSAUSTI EXPLORES LIFE AND ART AMIDST CHAOS
      (pp. 206-234)

      In the summer of 2006, a Florida television program aired a short film made in Cuba. Miami viewers tuned in, as did the scores of Havana residents with access to one of the many unauthorized satellite dishes. This transnational audience heard the commentator frame the film Existen (They Exist,2005) as counterrevolutionary and its maker as anti-Castrista. Having seen the experimental short only a few months earlier in Havana and having known the filmmaker, Esteban Insausti, for several years by this time, I was intrigued by this assessment.

      Existenpremiered in December 2005 at the FLC, a nongovernmental organization located...

  9. JUMP CUT
    • 7 Making Space for New Interventions: A MONTAGE FROM THE NATIONAL EXHIBIT OF NEW FILMMAKERS
      (pp. 237-278)

      “You have arrived in the capital that belongs to all Cubans.” An image of a billboard displaying these words opensBuscándote Havana (Searching for You, Havana, 2006),a poignant documentary juxtaposing hope with harsh reality. In this work Alina Rodríguez Abreu zooms in on Cuban campesinos who make their way to Havana. She investigates the challenges faced by these internal migrants seeking nothing more than a job and a dwelling in order to improve their lot in life. They recount the difficulties of being “undocumented” within their own country. Their lack of a legal address in the capital impedes them...

  10. EPILOGUE: Reflections on Cuba, Filmmaking, and the Times Ahead
    (pp. 279-288)

    Before taking leave of this generation of Cuban culture workers, it is worth our while to reflect on the island’s audiovisual future. In the preceding pages, we witnessed the transformation of “Cuban cinema”; what is connoted by the category has shifted dramatically over the past twentyyears. The endeavor of filmmaking, once confined within a concertedly national paradigm—emphasizing autochthonous cultural production designated principally for domestic consumption—is now increasingly propelled by transnational linkages and responsive to global forces. The boundaries of “cinema” have been pushed outward as well. The accessibility and ease of digital media and communications networks have expanded...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 289-316)
  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 317-328)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 329-340)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-342)