BY MARTY ANDERSON
A presentation by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba's most prominent film director, is a feature piece in the sixth issue of La Gaceta de Cuba in 1995. Published six times a year by the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, the magazine La Gaceta is a leading forum of discussion and debate on culture and politics.
As part of the worldwide commemoration of 100 years of film, the current issue contains four articles devoted to the role and nature of Cuban cinema since 1959. The article "Another cinema, another world, another society," is a presentation Gutiérrez Alea originally gave to a 1993 conference held in Tacoma, Washington. The director of Strawberry and Chocolate and Guantanamera discusses the challenge of filmmaking in countries of the Third World.
In Cuba's own case, Gutiérrez Alea explains, soon after the victory of the revolution in 1959 Washington imposed an economic embargo, excluding all trade between the two countries. Like much of the world, the Cuban people's "taste" in film had been conditioned by Hollywood. All this had to change since Cuba was barred from acquiring everything from aspirins to movies.
Gutiérrez Alea points out that after initial resistance, the popularity of other foreign movies, particularly those from Latin America, began to grow, although U.S. films continue to be shown to this day and remain popular. Even more, the product of the growing Cuban film institute became popular among the Cuban public. Many of these films became highly regarded outside Cuba for their boldness in addressing social issues and revolutionary questions.
"The Cuban film institute, since its formation, has been a workshop to make films and train filmmakers," Gutiérrez Alea explains.
"What is our message?" he asks. "Is it what our conscience says, or what the market supposedly demands? Will it show, or hide reality? Will it communicate with the public, or try to hypnotize them? Will it stimulate criticism and participation, or instill the idea that `this is the way things are and can't be changed'?"
Responding to these questions, Gutiérrez Alea comments, "How could one conceive of influential and lasting works of film if they serve to consolidate the status quo, with all its suffering and injustice, and not attack it and transform it?"
Also in this issue are two contributions that continue La Gaceta's efforts to publicize the increasing cultural ties between Cubans living abroad and those on the island. This opening helps counter the attempt by Cuban rightists and the U.S. State Department to line up prominent cultural figures against the revolution. In addition, it provides information to Cuban workers and youth on the impact of the Cuban revolution in the world.
One of these items is an interview with Roberto González Echevarría, a professor at Yale University who left Cuba as a youth in 1959 and has written a book on noted Cuban author Alejo Carpentier titled The Pilgrim at Home. The other, an article by José M. Fernández Pequeño, discusses Lino Novás Calvo, author of Pedro Blanco, Slave Trader and other works. Novás Calvo left Cuba in 1960 and remained hostile to the revolution until his death in 1983. The article argues that his work, ignored within Cuba for years, remains an important part of Cuba's cultural heritage.
Subscriptions to the Spanish-language journal are available for $40 a year and can be obtained through Pathfinder 410 West Street, New York, NY 10014 or at any Pathfinder bookstore listed on page 12.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home