December has always been a month to spend little time at home. Outside it is not as hot as usual, and the New Latin American Film Festival offers a full program to tempt us to leave the house. It’s time to get out the sweaters and not worry too much if the bus is too full or we have to walk on the sunny side of the street. At the end of each year people become friendlier, because there is little time to anguish over unfinished projects. These are weeks when we go on as usual, but as if we were saying, “OK, it seems it wasn’t 2009, maybe 2010 will be the year we are waiting for.”

Traditionally the lines lengthen in front of the Acapulco and Chaplin theaters, full of people in their turtleneck fleeces, and the glass doors break under the pressure of the movie goers. Even more than reliving the images projected on the screen, we enjoy immersing ourselves in the atmosphere of the festival season. Sometimes the most interesting things happen while, at the mercy of the wind, we wait for the next show and a friend tells us about the debut of some young director. It is precisely this bubble of hope, repeated every December, that I can’t seem to feel in this 31st go-round. Nor have the temperatures dropped, and my friends from before are not sitting in the seats, but rather dispersed and distant on various continents.

I keep thinking about the massive assistance provided to each film, a product of the strong Cuban film culture, and also about the absence of other entertainment options at affordable prices. There is not much to do in this city; those who don’t have convertible pesos have to get together–at no charge–along the walls of the Malecon, which is why the Festival is highly anticipated and so crowded. Trying to let go of this cultural lethargy, I decided I don’t care whether winter is here or not, or if there are many absent faces in the crowd. I opt to take the program, pick a title, and hurry into the unreality of the projection room, while outside the heat and the exodus continue.


34 thoughts on “Festival


    Coke Enneday: The Mystery of the Leaping Fish 1916

    The Mystery of the Leaping Fish is a 1916 short film starring Douglas Fairbanks and Bessie Love. In this unusually broad comedy for Fairbanks, the acrobatic leading man plays “Coke Enneday,” a cocaine-shooting detective parody of Sherlock Holmes given to injecting himself with cocaine from a bandolier of syringes worn across his chest and liberally helping himself to the contents of a hatbox-sized round container of white powder labeled “COCAINE” on his desk. The movie, written by D.W. Griffith, Tod Browning, and Anita Loos, displays a surreally lighthearted attitude toward cocaine and opium. Fairbanks otherwise lampoons Sherlock Holmes with checkered detective hat, coat, and even car, along with the aforementioned propensity for injecting cocaine whenever he feels momentarily down, then laughing with delight. In addition to observing visitors at his door on what appears to be a closed-circuit television referred to in the title cards as his “scientific periscope,” a clocklike sign on the wall reminds him to choose between EATS, DRINKS, SLEEPS, and DOPE.


  2. @#32
    Camilo & che …
    I like to belive that had Camilo lived … the realities of today would be different … perhaps fidel (and his animals) would not be in power
    (Note: che & fidel are not in “caps”)
    quiero creer que si Camilo estuviera vivo, la realidad de hoy seria diferente … quizas fidel (y sus animales) no estaria en el poder.
    (note: che y fidel no estan en mayusculas)

  3. I’m a Cuban doctor, poor one, who used to travel on Camellos (truck for public transportation in Havana city) and hot and packed Guaguas (public buses), with few money on my wallet, sorry pocket, because in that time, when I lived in cuba I did not have money to pay a wallet. I had no idea of what is a credit card or debit one, I had no idea of what freedom is, but I long for that other thing, may be freedom, where I can breath and live and feel better, human, doctor… in this moment movies came and was like a dream in the complete dark, like a little light, like a drop of water in the deserted land of desperation: Cuba
    my father, colonel, full orthodoxes one, all the time tried to maintain our family in a buble, in an special world of work for the world prosperity through communism and self example, being a human archetype that jump over the illogic speech that in the cuban people are to many Camilos, but however we MUST BE like the che, pretty contradiction, because I do not wonder how camilo wants to be like che, they were different and if camilo is alive I’m the one who want to listen his opinion regarding this statement and all that happened during last half century…
    I know me works are rare but are my words, my thought

  4. I will try to keep my mind open Cubano but given the precarious economic situation of Cuba I think it will be best at least at the initial stage not to allow those things.
    Anything could be change in the future as nothing is really set in stone.

  5. Cubano,
    I pay very little of my salary to pay for my wife health and mine so I really have no complain. I can pick any doctor I want and yes I have to pay money but is not a big deal compare to what I make. Is only a very small percentage.

    We do not even have to follow that model. People could think of some others but obviously someone will be paying for it because it will not be “free”.
    The point is it was never free. What Fidel claims to be free is not. And you know that, I hope!

  6. Cubano
    I do not have a problem with prostitution when it is a real choice made by an adult person. A 16 year old woman in Cuba is not an adult.
    They should not be given that choice. I am sorry but that’s something I think will be a crime to do.

    They will be way too much incentive to motivate this kind of activity and I will definitely will hate to see Cuba becoming the Whore house of America.

  7. Oh Julio, told look at the ones ahead, not the ones going backwards, like the US.
    Drugs and prostitution are legal or mostly tolerated in many countries, including some latinoamerican countries.
    And you can not tell me that the people in The Netherlands or Spain, are dying from addiction, and economies are at stop because everybody is a prostitute and doing drugs.
    On the contrary many of those countries have less problem drugs users than the US, a country full of prohibitions and bias.

  8. Julio when I was a kid growing up in Cuba, in a very small town of very hard working fishermen, I was in paradise, we work hard, but party hard too, everyone new eachother and tolerate each other, more or less, I grew up in a Fidelist family should you call it, that teach me to be free and make my own choices, in my home as I remember, being my parents and their siblings so young, we will have parties all the time, and everyone was welcome, the town prostitutes, gays, all races, everyone, that teach me to look into people’s eyes and heart, not judge them for whatever bias people should tell me, because we look at their humanity, no their profession or ways of living. And all that, I learn from a Fidelist family.
    I am very happy I can look at the human being directly and try to understand their humanity, their lives, their stories, cause we all are so wonderful and smart in our own ways, even those prostitutes you want to send to the underground and marginate from society. When you make it another day in this trouble world of ours, you have won the respect of your fellow human beings.
    And once again nothing is for free as you say, we all pay with taxes even in Cuba, well in the US you pay more than enough taxes, still they do not give you that “free” health care and “free” education back.

  9. Ok Cubano
    let us say we do it your way
    This is what will happen I think

    Girls of 16 in Cuba are of legal age so many many of them will go for the easy life of prostitution and then what?
    Drug addiction and everything else? are we going to go for all of that?
    Where do you stop? Where do you put a limit and you say enough is enough?

    Then who will be paying for the medical bills later when they get AIDS or whatever sickness. I do believe that will be the wrong choice for Cuba because is too much of a money incentive while if it is not legal then it will still exist but it will be underground and it will be less of a problem.

  10. Julio.
    Well my friend, I do hope we make the right choice, and hopefully it’s not on your side.
    Cause if you are happier with having your own people living underground lives, because of their personal choices instead of being open and free about it, and offering them other possibilities for them and only them to decide,(not you,or a repressive system)I do not think we are getting any better.
    Go to The Netherlands and learn about respecting peoples choices, concerning individual freedoms.

  11. Cubano we decide what we want it will be everyones decision it will not be what I want or what you want. I will imagine there will be a sort of referendum. A real referemdum where people for the first time will be able to pick from a choice. It will be up to us to illuminate people and guide them into what we think will be best. Nobody is forcing anyone to anything.

    As Andy mentioned the american model is not the only one.
    Cuba if it chooses to do so maybe able to keep the “free” education and the “free” health the thing is you and I and every one else know there is nothing free. We are the ones paying for it with taxes. So it will mean we pay higher taxes. Even if you do not use the benefits you will still be obligated to pay taxes to pay for those services.

    As for wars. Cuba will participate if it is the will of the Cuban people. Not if its the will of a few people on the top. That never sent their children to any of these wars.

    As for legalizing prostitution that’s something that have to be carefully thought out. The issue is that Cuba right now is a very poor country and will continue to do so for some time even after the change. The damage has already been done. So if we do legalize prostitution then too many of the youth will see an easy way to make money and that should be avoided specially if there is other choices. So I am definitely for no legalization of prostitution. Yes this will forced it to be underground and it will still exist but there will be little or no incentive to practice it.

    For prostitutes they should be help to get out of that life with some social programs. I am really sure all this issues can be discuss with everyone and when a real parliament is elected then the pro and con of each action will be discuss.

    It is not a done deal as to what will happen and neither will be any of us making those decisions. Its is my hope that the Cuban people are smart enough to pick people that are very knowledgeable and that can take the best decisions and also learn from similar experiences in other countries.

  12. Hi Andy..
    I agree, we sure need to build a strong economy, I am not an especialist on about anything, so If it’s called capitalism, well I do not know it. I lived in The Netherlands and Germany, and they mostly do well and have kind of healthy economics, but they have and are building models that really are aim to include all parts of society. Specially Germany has a very strong social program for all it’s citizens. Nothing is perfect but they are trying and learning from their mistakes.
    Sometimes the fear of seeing my people following the american model makes me paranoic, cause I think the cubans in the island after so much suffering(and the ones abroad too) should be ready for a better society. Whatever the name of it will be, I do not know, I am growing tiresome of categorizing everything.

  13. Cubano… there are many other countries that are better models to follow. The U.S. is an anomaly and not a good model for others, to my way of thinking… particularly a country of 11 million should not be fighting wars abroad (well as far as that goes I don’t think a country of 300 million should be fighting wars abroad but I wrote Obama and he didn’t write me back… why didn’t Yoani ask him about THAT!?!).

    Cuba can do better. And I think it will do better. For example, it can keep its health care system but FIX IT, make it actually work for people.

    But for things like that, you need money, and for money, you need capitalism.

  14. Hi Julio.
    Firstable un abrazo hermano. Ahora la polemica..:)
    So for what I keep reading of many here, and I agree we all want the best for Cuba, for our children and our people.
    But if it’s the american model, then what are we going to offer the new Cuba will come too with millions without health coverage, thousands of our children and youngster unable to afford a decent education, bring back the suffering of a war, will be sending them too to Irak, Afghanistan and who knows where the Arms industry will push to have another war, ah and we will give them too the constitutional right to buy guns, so they will feel free, anybody can have a gun a kill.
    In a huge turistic industry, how are we going to deal with prostitution? ah we will call them “whores” and let them unprotected in front of the law, marginate them and put them in jail?
    Because I love the place I live now, and the people that has made me member of their families, is that I am concern about these issues that I see everyday.
    I want the best for future generations of cubans, I think we could do better.

  15. The movie-going culture is pretty much dead here as well;due to security & lack of quality & family friendly atomsphere,not many bother to go to the theatre,unless its a title they cant get the pirated version of when they want to see it.My father still tells me of when he was young,& he just use to go into the theatre for the sake that it was air conditioned,not bothering with the film,& sometimes falling asleep :)
    I follow Yoani & her husband on twitter,but the tweets are in Spanish,& though i speak a few words & have a love for the language,i’m quite somewhat lost at figuring out what they’re saying :(

  16. For those that speak Spanish even those that speak english please watch

    This is a mother who’s son is in prison by the regime and she asking for help to get her son out that is dying in prison. Very sad situation.

    Her son is a political prisoner.

    It is sad to witness human suffering at this level. While the tyranny keeps abusing more Cubans.

  17. Yes, John is the same tactic they learn from Fidel
    attacks ad hominen


    Sad but this people do not know about the basics of debating.
    They can not defend their positions by denying Yoani’s message but by attacking the messenger.

    But their attacks are futile there is more and more blogs like Yoani’s

    It’s amazing how many well written blogs are out there wish you guys all could speak Spanish to read them. They describe details of the life in Cuba that even I did not know about.

    I did particularly like a lot the post from Ivan that I mentioned before and from Laritza.

    These blogger phenomenon has already snow ball. So there you have it.
    While they practice their little games with Yoani. 20 other bloggers or maybe 50 are doing the same as Yoani. Maybe tomorrow will be 100 or 1000 we hope so.

  18. Another wonderful post on the El Yuma blog about Yoani:

    “I highlighted a series of articles appearing in the Cuban press (in print and on-line) aimed at disqualifying Yoani Sanchez. Without exception, they deploy one or more of a handful of tired tactics traditionally aimed at discrediting any critics of the Cuban revolution.

    Most commonly, they attack the critic, not the criticism; the messenger, not the message.”

    ‘Ham-fisted’ is how I describe the attacks on Yoani in Cuban state media. What’s your favorite adjective?

  19. For those of you that are trying to read all this many blogs let me make a sugestion
    There is a free tool by google called google reader


    It allows one to place multiple blogs so you will be able to group them in any way and it makes it easier to read multiple blogs. Without having to go and check one by one to see who wrote something.
    Google reader is what they called an Agregator

  20. Oh shame! What can we do?

    Desde Cuba:

    Doloroso lo que nos ha tocado vivir, este sistema igualitario, donde unos son mas que otros,
    por tener la facilidad de encontrarse estudiando en las Sorbonas, la Complutense, Georgetown y
    con la facilidad de coger un avion y visitar a sus padres en Cuba, la nomenklatura, los menos
    igualitarios, años en la agricultura, cartas de Morro y tarjetas blancas, permisos de liberacion
    y especiales autorizaciones ” de arriba ” . Es tan doloroso, tan nefasto, que me hace pensar
    que todo eso cambiará y pronto, no podrá ser asi por vida, su turno le llegará a la mayoria.

  21. When I was student I remember going to the Charles Chaplin movie theater to see movies. Remember I saw there lots of movies by the Marx brothers. Chico Harpo and Groucho!

    Used to also go to cinecita the pizzeria near the theater in the corner of 12 and 23.
    They also used to sell in my time guarapo and small toasted bread that I used to eat when I could afford them. :-)

  22. Un saludo a los cinefilos suerte en un festival sin libertades ,algun dia podremos ver las peliculas que el gobierno cubano trata de ocultar a la poblacion cubana , este festival es el reflejo del cine pobre sin recursos aunque muchas veces algunas peliculas tienen alguna calidad.

Comments are closed.