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.