In Cuba, there are no large shopping malls with modern movie theaters inside. Not to mention Imax and the 3D experience is very short. You shouldn’t expect either to find commercials about the most recent Hollywood productions, although the legal limbo left by Washington’s Blockade implies that the cinemas of this Caribbean Island, which barely charge 0.05 USD per ticket, show premiere films, without having an economic agreement with the distributors. In this sui generis context, the Cuban public can be considered a great film’s consumer and, above all, of national productions. Therefore, it’s not strange that each new delivery of a local director calls thousands of people to the movies or that the film’s digital copy is quickly distributed through the informal information exchange networks that have proliferated throughout the country.
Who are the best Cuban filmmakers? PanamericanWorld proposes you to approach 10 essential figures of the seventh art. The list is divided into two sections, one for those who continue to produce new films and another for celluloid icons, who left an imperishable work.
Several of the works of this great director are among the best of all time in Cuban filmography. His first feature film, “Clandestines” (1987), still arouses emotions, while, his approach to the life of the National Hero, José Martí, in “El Ojo del Canario” was very applauded by both the public and the critics. In this filmmaker’s creations it’s possible to appreciate, from a special audiovisual poetics and with a very intentional and well planned soundtrack (product in several times of the master Edesio Alejandro), an approach to universal topics (friendship, love, loneliness, hope), through characters who live in Cuba. Other works of his that we cannot fail to see: “Madagascar” (1994); “Life is whistling” (1998); “Suite Habana” (2003) and “Last days in Havana” (2017).
JUAN CARLOS TABÍO
Tabío directed several of the 80’s most famous comedies in Cuba, from “Se permuta” to “Plaff or too afraid of life”; but, undoubtedly, it was the co-direction with Tomás Gutiérrez Alea of “Strawberry and Chocolate”, nominated for the Oscar in 1993 as the Best Foreign Film, the one that made him known to the world. In 2014, he received the National Film Award. Other important creations of this filmmaker are “Guantanamera” (1995, also a co-direction with Alea); “Waiting list” (1999) and “The cornucopia” (2009).
He is one of the filmmakers that has directed the most films in the last decade. He started making documentaries, but he switched to fiction. Among his must-see creations we can mention “Adorables Lies” (1991); “A paradise under the stars” (1999); “Perfect wrong love” (2003); “Ticket to paradise” (2010); “Esther somewhere” (2012, the last movie starring Reinaldo Miravalles, probably the best Cuban actor of all time) and “The good demons” (2017).
In the documentary “Last bagpipers in Havana”, directed along with Natasha Vázquez, Daranas showed a great talent for narrating audiovisual stories. His first fiction film was “The broken gods” (2008), a film inspired by the life of the most famous Cuban pimp in history, Alberto Yarini. This work filled theaters in Cuba and won several awards at Havana Film Festival. Later, Daranas risked more and with “Conduct” (2014) showed the special relationship established by a teacher with her students. His most recent creation, “Sergio & Sergei”, recreates scenes of the Mir Soviet Space Station in 1991 and the Cuba of that time.
Hamlet went from editing and directing video clips to fiction. His first big production, “Old house” (2010), an adaptation of Abelardo Estorino’s theatrical work, was very well received by critics and the public. Afterwards he directed “Fábula” (2011), based on an essay by Alberto Garrandés, with a script by Alejandro Brugués and his most recent work is “It’s not as before” (2017), based on Alberto Pedro’s text “Weekend in Bahia “, where he delves into the complex of family and love relationships between people separated by emigration.
CUBAN CELLULOID LEGENDS
TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA
He is recognized as one of the best directors in the history of Cuban and Latin American cinema. He wrote and directed more than 20 films, documentaries and short films. A lot of his works are iconic and are usually studied in film schools. In the list of unforgettable films appears, first, “Memories of underdevelopment” (1968), with Sergio Corrieri and Daysi Granados in the leading roles; also, we cannot forget: “The Mégano” (1955), “The 12 chairs” (1962), “The death of a bureaucrat” (1966) and “Strawberry and Chocolate” (co-directed by Juan Carlos Tabío, 1993) . He passed away in 1996.
This is another key figure in Cuban the cinema development. His first feature film, “Lucía” (1968), is known as one of the greatest works of Ibero-American cinema. Other outstanding films of Solás were: “A day of November” (1972), “Cecilia” (1981), “A man of success” (1986), “The century of lights” (1991), “Honey for Oshún” (2001) and “Neighborhood Cuba” (2005). In 2005, he received the National Film Award. He was the creator and president of the Gibara’s International Festival of Poor Cinema, named after his death, which took place in 2008, the International Film Festival “Humberto Solás”.
JULIO GARCÍA ESPINOSA
He was a great documentaries and feature films director. In 2004, he won the National Film Award and left outstanding works that placed him between the best filmmakers in the country. Among his unforgettable creations, we can mention “The Mégano” (1955), “Adventures of Juan Quinquín” (1961),” Queen and King “(1994). He passed away in 2016.
ENRIQUE PINEDA BARNET
This outstanding creator, National Film Award in 2006, developed an extensive career as a scriptwriter, actor and director of fiction documentaries and feature films. His best-known work, without a doubt, was “The beauty from Alhambra” (1989), based on the writer Miguel Barnet’s novel “Rachel´s song”, where the actress Beatriz Valdés shone. This film won the Goya Award for best foreign film.
He was a film and theater director. His most revered film was “Teresa’s Portrait ” (1979) and in his list of feature films we can mention “Habanera” (1984), “Parallel Lives” (1992) and ” Amanda’s Prophecies” (1999). He passed away in 2005.