Cuba

Manuel Octavio Gómez – La primera carga al machete AKA The First Charge of the Machete (1969)

From Amos Vogel’s Film as a Subversive Art:
Possibly the most ‘aesthetic’ and ‘experimental’ of revolutionary Cuba’s films, this outstanding work utilizes high-contrast photography, over-exposure, and solarization to create the faded chiaroscuro and poetic authenticity of the period it depicts. The film deals with an 1870 uprising against the Spanish occupation troops in Cuba, in which the machete, originally used to cut sugar cane, becomes a weapon of the people’s warfare. The portrayals of decadent upper classes and heroic peasants are sharp and incisive, and distancing devices – such as characters addressing the camera – are used to induce attitudes of analysis instead of involvement. The emergence of such a strongly poetic work within the Cuban film industry testifies to the divergent aesthetic tendencies permitted expression within the revolution. Read More »

Humberto Solás – Lucía (1968)

A formally dazzling landmark of Cuban cinema by Humberto Solás, the operatic epic Lucía recounts the history of a changing country through the eyes of three eponymous women. In 1895, Lucía is a tragic noblewoman who inadvertently betrays her country for love. In 1932, she is a member of the bourgeoisie drawn into the workers’ uprising against the dictator. And in the postrevolutionary 1960s, she is a rural newlywed struggling against patriarchal oppression. Shot in an array of distinct, evocative visual styles, Solás’s sprawling triptych is a vital document of radical progress.
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Daniel Díaz Torres – Alice in Wondertown AKA Alicia en el pueblo de Maravillas (1991)

Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Daniel Díaz Torres’s ALICE IN WONDERTOWN is both an absurdist comedy and an allegory with a dark political undercurrent. Alice is a drama teacher who goes on a cultural mission to a small town where the most bizarre occurrences are commonplace. Mirrors become doors, circus animals walk the streets, and it seems anything can happen – and everyone except Alicia seems resigned to the situation. She discovers before long that the town’s population is made up of officials and workers who have been fired for violating rules, minor or illusionary, and now cannot find their way out of this strange town.One of the most controversial films in the history of Cuba, ALICE IN WONDERTOWN was banned by government authorities from Cuban theatres shortly after its release, threatening the independence that the Cuban film industry hitherto had enjoyed. Read More »

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea – La última cena AKA The Last Supper (1976)

This scathing black comedy from Cuban satirist Tomás Gutiérrez Alea is a dish that’s bitter to taste and hard to stomach. It’s an intricate and uncompromising fable that alarmingly boasts an authentic historical model.

In the 18th century, the wealthy owner of a sprawling Havana sugar plantation gives in to a misguided whim. As Holy Week approaches, he decides to host his own Last Supper, appointing himself as Christ and a dozen downtrodden slaves as the apostles. Held on Maundy Thursday, his re-enactment is a precarious proposition from the outset. At first, it offers Alea ample opportunity for comedy, as the pompous master cleans and flinchingly kisses the feet of the bemused slaves before taking to the table. Read More »

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea – Hasta cierto punto AKA Up to a Certain Point (1983)

Documentary filmmaker Oscar (Oscar Alvarez) is researching machismo in Cuba. He learns that the nation’s chauvinistic men have problems with strong and autonomous females and expectations that fidelity is essential for women, but not for men.
However as the project progresses he begins to fall for his spirited colleague (Mirtha Ibarra), presenting a dilemma.
Should he be honest about his feelings and leave his wife for this new love, and can he make an objective documentary when he is himself entwined in the issues he is studying. Read More »

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea – La muerte de un burócrata AKA Death of a Bureaucrat (1966)

SYNOPSIS
A worker dies in an accident at his work and is buried with his union card, essential for the widow to receive a pension. To recover it, the family is forced to carry out a clandestine exhumation. The impediments of the bureaucracy make it impossible to bury the corpse again. The absurdity of the situation degenerates into violence. Read More »

Armand Gatti – El otro Cristóbal (1963)

Using satire, encoded in symbolism and surrealism, the French director Armand Gatti tells the story of an imaginary country in Latin America governed by Admiral Anastasio. In this setting, Cristóbal, a foreign sailor, and Julio Bobadilla, a black peasant convinced of the importance of the organ music from Manzanillo to stimulate the revolution, become the leaders of a social movement that plans to overthrow the tyrant to the rhythm of conga. Read More »