The Dark Side of the Festival

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The year’s most anticipated month is December, with its cold fronts that allow us to “bundle up” and with the films of International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema. I remember, in particular, one evening in 1992 when the glass in the doors of the Acapulco cinema shattered before the onslaught of hundreds of people wanting to see a film from Argentina, The Dark Side of the Heart. I’m not exaggerating the enthusiasm, since it was only in this last month of the year that we could enjoy something other than Soviet movies, something with more artistic value than the American thrillers on national television. Very few, at that time, had a VCR to play videos, and the magic of the dark hall with the projector purring behind us was almost intact.

But the Festival, now in its 33rd incarnation, has been losing ground in the cultural life of Havana. In part because the pirated serials, soap operas and Hollywood productions lead many to prefer to stay home to enjoy their DVD-player or clandestine satellite dish. Movie-goers are also discouraged by the fact that dozens of neighborhood movie theaters have closed, such as the comfortable Bayamo of my childhood, the majestic Rex and Duplex, or the centrally-located Cuba cinema. But the principal festival of Latin American film has had other setbacks that spring from within, limitations arising from its own structure.

Censorship, works shown only once while others hog the schedule, authors not accepted for having “exceeded” social and political criticism, are some of the incidents that have impoverished the festival. The centralization of decision making, personified in the figure of Alfredo Guevara, imparts an effect on the festival similar to that generated by the excessively vertical government in our country. With such antecedents, the exclusion on this occasion of the film Vinci, from the director Eduardo del Llano, shouldn’t even surprise us. In response to the letter of protest from the creator of shorts such as Monte Rouge and Exit, the Festival’s senior management could only appeal to thematic considerations. But many of us know what it’s really about: Del Llano is an uncomfortable author and his productions are accepted with clenched teeth because they touch the wounds of a reality that the official discourse tries to cover over with make-up. Fortunately, the same alternative networks that broadcast the Brazilian soap operas and reality shows, might also propagate — briefly — the rejected film. So, we’ll just turn off the lights in our own living rooms, click the remote control and start the projection, a private function where no one can decide what we can see and what we can’t.


16 thoughts on “The Dark Side of the Festival

  1. Just a quick one for Fresita: do you really want to go down that path? Ok.

    Before you question my name, think about your own here. Is Fresita your real name, not just a pseudonym? And why is that important in Damir’s case, but not in help’s or others? Do you know the guy calling himself Siegmund Freud in person and can attest that that is his eal name? How about the rude humberto capiro who capisce nothing, but never fails to expresses his stupidity by writing Dmierda”, just like Albert and Siegmund Freud?

    Double standards. If you question something, you have to question everything. I’d like to see that. But I doubt I will.

    Believe whatever you want. I hope you have the right tools to make your own decisions, and sincerely hope you make the right decisions.

    Simple look at the post 15 should provide you with plenty reasons to understand my position. Are you going to be naive and believe that that person “started” by asking “polite” questions? I do not normally respond to anyone in order to AVOID personal confrontations, but help (subliminal message?) is convinced he has the right to shed personal insults because I ignored him, just as I ignored the rest?

    See, that is what hurts them. I ignore their personal comments because I cannot have a serious debate with people whose language comes out of the sewage and is counterproductive. helpless person cannot find one insult directed at him/her, yet look at the language this person uses. Not in the below post, but in most others.

    And then patronisingly states:

    “I wish the Castro fans could sit down and discuss issues openly, but most can’t. When asked to contribute something positive to the discussion, they throw out some slogans and insults, and then leave.”

    No one can say that for Damir. Damir does not insult anyone personally out of the blue. And Damir is still here, making comments on what the team “yoani” do, not what individuals write here. These simple individuals have demonstrated abundantly that they have got NOTHING to add to the posts of the team “yoani”, except to copy and paste other people’s work.

    If you, Fresita, have something to say about what the team “yoani” write about, Damir will listen and discuss. And you will be hard-pressed to find any of these unfounded patronising accusations these losers drop on Damir here.

    If, however, you post anything else, chances are Damir will not pay much attention and will comment mostly on the main article.

    For the rest, as I mentioned in the other thread where you addressed your question to me, you should go back two or three years to compare my posts with reactions to it, and then see who is really angry and impossible to have a real debate with.

    Please note that you and I have not engaged in any debate so far. So your statement about inability to have a debate is ludicrous. It is pre-judgmental. Maybe if we first try to discuss issues before you jump into conclusions like that?

    If you do want to do that, all I ask is that you stick to the issues the team “yoani” drop here.

  2. Fresita, I tried to understand too and asked some polite questions when I started posting here. He said he couldn’t answer me because his posts were censored. Since then he’s posted a few hundred pages of insults.

    I wish the Castro fans could sit down and discuss issues openly, but most can’t. When asked to contribute something positive to the discussion, they throw out some slogans and insults, and then leave.

  3. Hello again to everyone

    Just a quick one Damir – if we assume your name is Damir – does your name not mean bringer of peace, conscientious? If it is a pseudonym, why choose it?

    I suppose also to understand why you are so against this blog and many of the other contributors understanding of Cuba, maybe you can share your experiences and your education that lead to these conclusions? I do not see how we can have a valid debate if we do not understand why you think how you do. I have some comments in another post I have not sent yet as I mostly do not understand your view or sometimes content

    You made comment at some point about right to comment on Cuba and your view here is some people do not (I am paraphrasing). So what is your link to Cuba and right to comment…just wondering


  4. Why would Damir threaten to take down this site which he says nobody reads? Why does he post thousands of times to a site he says nobody reads?

    Something is rotten in Damirland. I’m starting to think he could be a liar.


    MIAMI HERALD : Cubans can sell homes now, but how and to whom?- Impact of new law is hard to predict after so many years of illegal house sales-Juan O.

    Under the new law, buyers must be resident Cubans or resident foreigners, restrictions no doubt designed to block exiles from personally dominating the new market. Yet Cubans emigrating — until now the government seized their homes — can now sell them or pass them to relatives before they leave.Buyers and sellers each must each pay the government 4 percent on whatever is higher — the declared price of the sale or the value of the property as appraised by a government architect. Yet much remains unclear about the details of the shift away from a system that allowed only swaps of dwellings of roughly equal value and was riddled with corruption, illegal constructions and a myriad other problems.Cubans generally have welcomed the housing reform, saying it was about time the communist-run government recognized their right to dispose of their property as they saw fit — and, of course, to profit from it.Three and four generations often live together, divorced couples are forced to remain in the same quarters and tiny lofts — nicknamed “barbeques” because of their searing heat – are added to many rooms. At the same time, some retirees, divorcees, widows and widowers are holding on fiercely to large but mostly empty homes and making ends meet by illegally renting bedrooms to foreign tourists. Yet many Cubans wonder exactly how the reform will work, given the widespread corruption used in past years to sidestep the government restrictions on housing swaps.“They only legalized what was happening illegally for decades,” said Camilo Loret de Mola, a former Havana lawyer who admits he handled many illegal cash payments for housing “swaps.” In a country where the average monthly salary officially stands at $17, and where banks do not offer mortgages, most buyers are expected to get help from relatives and friends abroad. So many houses in one sector of the famed Varadero beach resort were bought in the 1990s by South Florida exiles through relatives on the island that it is jokingly referred to as “Hialeah Heights.”Spaniards, Russians and other Europeans also have bought vacation places in Cuba over the years, “all on the black market,” added Loret De Mola, who now lives in Atlanta.Some Cubans remain wary of the political will behind the housing reform, noting that Fidel Castro put a quick stop to a 1990s program to build condominiums for foreigners when fancy buildings began popping up along his route between home and office.

  6. Want to talk about the dark sides?

    Here’s a well known ex-usanian banker. He says it out LOUDLY that you are all peons ans merely containers. That you are the stupid little soldiers doing the dirty job for your white “gods”.

    And that you are so mentally deranged that you do not even realise that:

  7. Would someone explain to the dum-dum that personal blogs aren’t democracies? This is a moderated comment section, and what this means is that the MODERATOR decides which comments get posted. You see, that’s the point of moderating. Duh. Frankly, I think the moderator here is more than generous with your inane rants.
    Dear moderator, please ban this creep. He’s threatening to take down your site, gee, I’m sure Yoani is just shaking in her boots.

  8. Since you usanians, and all those conservatives around the shrinking capitalist world who are buying usanian nazist brainwash like it is cocaine -infused soft drink, are too stupid to actually follow the nes programs, here’s what your reporters say while you eat junk food and drink that soft drink that are going to kill you peacefully. The reason why Cuba will nEVER be invaded and will CONTINUE as it is:

    Listen carefully the parts where the usanian reporters are talking about CUBA.

    Liste CAREFULLY. These are YOUR own news reporters.

  9. ou want to talk about censorship?

    Let us talk about censorship:

    Where is this “democratic” international community today, while Egyptian police is killing and beating the hell out of protesters?

    Why is no NATO army already in the country bombing it with the blanket bombardment technique used in Libya (killing thousands of those “people” it came in to supposedly “protect”?)?

    How come now it is okay to beat the shift out of those same people they supported yesterday?

    Well, “democracy” and “freedom of speech” is busy beating and pepper spraying its OWN “people” PEACEFULLY demonstrating.

    And if it were not for the internet, the true face of the “democratic capitalism” would be still hidden from us.


    And how come we do NOT hear about the genocide albanians are performing on remaining Serbs in Kosovo? How come we do NOT hear how the “protection forces” of NATO and EU are actually HELPING the genocide?

    Because THAT is what the REAL CENSORSHIP is.

    Hiding the truth when “our boys” are doing the dirty job. That is okay. It is NOT okay that “their boys” (opposition) are doing it.

    “we” are the d”democrats” – “we” have the right to say and do whatever “we” want and kill those who dare to think differently.

    Marx forbid, they dare to SAY what they think.

    The team “yoani” are faithful followers of such “democracy”, blocking my posts or deleting them when they decide that the facts are detrimental to their “cause”.

    Screw the “freedom of speech”. Only repeat the lies ad nauseam that support “our” ideology and blow up anything and anyone who dares to disagree.

    Send the dogs in to tear them apart, bloody bastards, commies and all… How dare they to think differently and dislike “some kind of pragmatic capitalism”!!!!?????

  10. Th team “yoani”, and especially the pin-up granny, are hard at lying work AS PER USUAL!!!:

    “I’m not exaggerating the enthusiasm, since it was only in this last month of the year that we could enjoy something other than Soviet movies, something with more artistic value than the American thrillers on national television.”

    It is actually quite easy to get by and watch anything other than “american” thrillers. There are doens of film festivals and more importantly, cinemas showing South American movies in Cuba.

    You MUST be a brain damaged conservative fanatic to believe such a statement from the certified liar.

    Rather than believing in what Damir says too, GO TO CUBA for yourselves and compare the lies of the team “yoani” with the actual situation there.

    Do NOT take anything for granted simply because some Cuban dissident (a traitor and a fifth column more precisely speaking) says.

    White “gods” also told to the world that “democratic” (non-existent) capitalism is the “best” system and the only system that works.

    With the usa and Europe shattered into pieces and disappearing fast from the horizont, you should know by now NOT to listen and believe ANYTHING your white politicians advocating only “democratic” capitalism tell you.

    The REALITY clearly shows who is the real LIAR here.

    And by visiting Cuba you WILL help the country on its’ path to economic recovery from nazist embargo and blockade crippling the country faster than Castros, for the last 60 years.


    WORLD POLICY BLOG: Back to Havana – By Nathan Frandino-November 18

    The last fond memory Maria Gomez has of her native Cuba was growing up on a six-acre finca—her family’s farm, tucked into a valley in Santa Clara, with a little wooden house and no electricity—and playing there as a child, getting dirty in the grassy fields down by the creek.

    “Getting up early in the morning and the sun rising,” Gomez says. “Those were beautiful childhood memories, and I don’t have many.”

    Her childhood dissipated when the Cuban police accused her father of setting fires to pro-Castro establishments and jailed him for six years for being “counter-revolutionary.” She fled in 1970 with her mother, eventually settling in Miami. After a short visit to Cuba in 1979 with her husband, she has refused to return to the communist country until now.

    On Nov. 18, Maria and her husband will be going on an emotionally and politically charged trip alongside their two children, who are now adults and have never set foot on the island.
    “I’m curious to look at Cuba with a very different perspective,” Gomez says. “My kids are grown, they’re independent, I’m not as angry as I was, and it feels like a good thing. You know those moments in life when the timing is the right timing? That’s how I feel.”
    Gomez has every right to be angry. When her school learned of her father’s anti-Castro sentiments, they refused to let her continue studying. When she and her mother wanted to leave, the government forced them to work on the granjas, sugar cane plantations that many considered to be concentration camps.
    She felt rejected and unwelcome in her own country. After two years of working on the plantation, she and her mother earned the right to leave the country. After a brief stint in Mexico, they arrived in Miami before joining family in Union City, N.J., where Maria met her husband, Manny.
    Manny Gomez arrived in Florida as a ‘Peter Pan kid,’ one of 14,000 children sent from Cuba to the U.S. by their parents between 1960 and 1962. The two visited the island in 1979, when the Castro government allowed interaction with the Cuban American community. They traveled with two of Manny’s aunts and stayed for one week—long enough for Maria to not want to return again.
    Thirty-two years later, their children are ready to go. After so many nights around the dinner table with their parents sharing stories of Santa Clara, curiosity finally bit the kids.


    MIAMI HERALD: Yoani Sánchez llama a debatir a Mariela Castro- Viernes – JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ- 11.18.11

    Yoani Sánchez, fundadora del blog Generación Y, y la voz más conocida internacionalmente de la disidencia cubana, dijo estar dispuesta a debatir e intercambiar opiniones sobre la realidad de la isla con Mariela Castro, hija del gobernante Raúl Castro, con quien tuvo recientemente un sonado encuentro en la red social Twitter.
    “Me encantaría un día hablar con Mariela de lo que nos une y separa porque no quiero juzgar a nadie por su genética o ADN”, indicó Sánchez. “Quiero escucharla más alla de las ideologías”.

    La sorpresiva invitación discurrió en la presentación virtual de Sánchez el jueves en la Feria del Libro de Miami, donde presentó su libro WordPress, un blog para hablar al mundo, de la editorial española Anaya.

    En el panel de comentaristas participaron el escritor Carlos Alberto Montaner, el periodista Alberto Müller y el editor del libro, Eugenio Tuya.

    “Parece ser que Mariela Castro está tomándose un tiempo de descanso y reflexión en Twitter:, dijo Sánchez. “Sus primeros pasos en la red social han sido bastante desafortunados”.

    Have dos semanas Castro, quien defiende el gobierno de su padre y está a cargo del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX), arremetió virulentamente contra Sánchez en Twitter. Entre otros comentarios denunció que Sánchez imita un “enfoque de tolerancia que reproduce los viejos mecanismos de poder”, refiriéndose al orden de las sociedades democráticas.

    En entradas posteriores Castro aparentemente se hartó del intercambio de mensajes y la solidez de los comentarios de Sánchez y otros que la cuestionaron.

    Castro terminó diciendo a sus críticos: “Parásitos despreciables: ¿recibieron la orden de sus empleadores de responderme al unísono y con mismo guión predeterminado? Sean creativos”.

    Montaner destacó la entereza de Sánchez y su entrega para decir la verdad sobre la situación interna de la isla y representar la voz de muchos otros cubanos.

    “Gracias a sus batallas por boca de ella son millones los cubanos que se sienten de alguna manera representados”, dijo Montaner. “Es un espíritu libre que no acepta que le impongan el silencio o el aplauso. Ha derrotado a un sistema al que le costaría demasiado aplastarla”.

    Müller aseveró que a Sánchez “le sobra esperanza”, pese a las circunstancias que la rodean y el acoso policial a la que está consistentemente sometida.

    Sánchez permanece bajo continua vigilancia de la Seguridad del Estado y en ocasiones ha sido víctima de golpizas por parte de las autoridades y grupos progubernamentales. Su blog está bloqueado a los pocos usuarios de internet de la isla. No obstante es una activa voz disidente con un enorme peso en la formación de la opinión pública internacional sobre la isla. El gobierno cubano nunca le ha permitido salir a recibir ninguno de decenas de premios e invitaciones internacionales de prestigiosas instituciones en Estados Unidos, América Latina y Europa. La Feria del Libro de Miami no ha sido la excepción a la regla.

    “Soy optimista porque el optimismo es profundamente contestatario”, aseguró Sánchez. “Este país tiene la fórmula para ser una nación próspera donde la gente quiera quedarse y crecer. Sólo basta que combinemos bien lo que tenemos y que juntemos todas las voces: la fórmula tiene que terminar en una raíz aritmética de la felicidad”.


    BOSTON GLOBE: Amid economic reforms, Cuba goes after corruption- By Paul Haven – November 19, 2011

    Cuba has battled corruption before, even executing a former revolutionary war hero on drug trafficking charges in 1989. But past arrests have been largely limited to Cubans. Analysts say the current crackdown seems different, with Canadian, French, Czech, Chilean and English citizens jailed or sentenced for their alleged roles, and scores of small South American and European companies kicked out of the country.

    The sale of Korean cars and car parts slowed this year as two top distributors, both Canadian, became ensnared. Meanwhile products like Chilean wine, juice and tomato paste temporarily disappeared from supermarket shelves, replaced after a few months by other brands.

    A South American importer with a decade of experience selling food products to Cuba before he was expelled for alleged corruption in 2009 said the payoffs can take many forms: from the gift of a bit of gas money, a free meal or a computer pen drive for a relatively junior “international purchaser,” to free trips abroad, computers, flat-screen TVs or large deposits of cash in foreign bank accounts for senior officials.

    “The forms of persuasion — let’s call it that — are nearly infinite,” he said, adding that the system is so pervasive that “a businessman must always have a wad of cash to stuff the pocket of a guayabera,” the loose-fitting traditional Cuban dress shirt.

    The arrests and raids also have sent a shudder through Havana’s small foreign business community, a collection of risk-takers who always have accepted a high degree of uncertainty doing business with a Marxist country that is subject to a 49-year U.S. trade embargo, and which has a mixed track record of payment. Some now see themselves as targets.

    Moves against them began in earnest in 2009 when more than 150 foreign business owners and operators were expelled, according to businessmen and a confidential Foreign Trade Ministry list obtained by The Associated Press. But the pace of closures and number of arrests have grown in recent months.

  14. i find this soOOO ironic that spanish citizens living in cuba can vote in a multi-party election back in spain but those cubans in the island cannot! even more disturbing is how those spaniards living in cuba could live there and not feel guilty or used or just outright hypocritical!

    bellingham herald: Cubans who became Spanish citizens recently are voting in Spain’s elections Sunday- By JUAN O. TAMAYO

    MIAMI – Some Cubans will vote in their first democratic elections this Sunday. But they won’t be electing anyone in their own country.

    Instead, they will vote in Spain’s parliamentary elections because they are among the more than 25,000 Cubans who took advantage of a 2006 Spanish law that grants citizenship to the foreign-born grandchildren of Spanish emigrants.

    More than 12,000 Spanish citizens living in Cuba requested mail-in ballots for Sunday’s parliamentary election, according to Spanish news media reports. Among them are expected to be some who were born Cuban and recently became Spaniards.

    “All Spanish citizens have the right to vote,” whether native-born or naturalized, said an official at the Spanish consulate in Havana who declined comment on what percentage of the 12,000 might be naturalized Cubans.

    Retired University of Havana professor Enrique Lopez Oliva said he assisted two acquaintances, a father and son who became Spanish citizens, with their absentee ballots “because they were not accustomed to so many political parties.”

    Spain’s Law of Historical Memory, approved in 2006, was designed in part to grant citizenship to the foreign-born descendants of Spaniards who were forced to flee their country in the 1930s because of the Civil War and Franco dictatorship.

    At least 190,000 island-born grandchildren of Spaniards asked for interviews at the Spanish consulate in Havana to present their bids for citizenship, according to a March 2010 report in Madrid’s El Pais newspaper. Nearly 52,000 already had presented their applications and 23,256 had been approved while 2,001 had been rejected, the report said.


    AFP AGENCY: Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez slams censorship, travel restrictions
    MIAMI — Blogger Yoani Sanchez denounced the travel restrictions and censorship imposed on dissidents like her in communist Cuba, as she introduced her latest book at a Miami book fair via telephone.

    Sanchez, named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2008, called in Thursday evening to a Miami Book Fair International event moderated by Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist Alberto Muller and her editor, Eugenio Tuya.

    “I couldn’t come because of migratory limitations. To feel free in cyberspace has also brought me immobility as a punishment,” she told the mainly Cuban audience before the connection was lost.

    In a pre-recorded video, she touted her blogging manual — “WordPress, a blog to speak to the world” — as “more than a technical guide because I included stylistic advice and then some personal experiences.”

    “I think it is a manual that could be useful both to someone who lives in New York, with everything in reach, but also someone who like me has lived in a country with censorship,” said Sanchez, whose blogs won her El Pais’s prestigious Ortega y Gasset Journalism Awards in 2008.

    The new book was published by Grupo Anaya, Spain’s leading educational publisher, and released in Spain in June. It goes on sale in some Miami bookstores after the book fair.

    After the telephone connection was dropped the first time, Sanchez’s Twitter account was lit up on big screens in the auditorium at Miami-Dade College, the venue for the event.

    “I am sick of narrating my life in the improbable tense… ‘If I had been there,'” she wrote.

    “Nobody has the right to prevent another from seeing the fruits of her tree, of watching her child grow, of seeing her book be presented. But I’ll survive! I will live in a future without so many absurdities, I will live in a freer, more civil Cuba.”


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