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Monday, April 17, 2006

This week at the SFC: THREE NIGHTS OF CUBAN CINEMA

Tuesday 18th, Thursday 20th and Friday 21st April

STUDIOFILMCLUB in conjunction with Ann Cross, curator of this January's CUBAN CINEMA at London's National Film Theatre, is very pleased to be presenting three evenings of Cuban Cinema. Whilst the screening of three feature length films could never represent a comprehensive selection of post-Revolution Cuban Cinema, what we are attempting to present is a selection designed to be a introduction to the history and feeling of a vital cinematic movement by one of our close Caribbean neighbours.
Authentic Cuban cinema evolved with the Revolution of 1959 and the founding of ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute). There was great activity amongst the new generation of film-makers. While US aggression threw Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union, the film-makers steered clear of the communist orthodoxy of socialist realism, and instead took influence from the French New Wave, Eisenstein and Fellini, and Brazilian Cinema Novo. Our Friday night film SOY CUBA is not essentially a Cuban film (Filmed by great Russian director Mikhail Kalatozov The Cranes Are Flying) but is none the less an extraordinary piece of work and a true historical document. A unique collaboration between director Kalatozov, the poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko, and writer Enrique Pineda Barnet dramatizes the conditions that led to the 1959 Cuban revolution. Originally made in 1964 (and unpopular both in Russia and Cuba), it was re released in 1995 through the combined efforts of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.

We hope you will enjoy these choices and we will endeavour to screen more Cuban Cinema shortly...

Tuesday 18th April

LUCIA (Humberto Solas/ Cuba/ 1968/ 160')

An astonishing first feature by the 26 year old Humberto Solas, and one of the definitive Cuban films of the 1960's, this is a trilogy of tales about a women called Lucia at different moments in Cuba's history: 1895, 1933 and the 60's. Each is a love story – the first tragic, the second melodramatic, the third a social comedy – which together add up to a powerful allegory on Cuban history, where women's experience is seen as the node of social contradictions and changes.


Thursday 20th April

LA VIDA ES SILBAR (Life is to Whistle) (Fernando Perez/ Cuba-Spain/1999/110')

The tale of three characters in Havana who never meet, but share a common yearning for an elusive happiness. Allegorical, symbolic and rendered with unfailing lightness of touch, their stories are linked by the watery face of a narrator who observes their comings and goings in a sort of magical realist comedy of social criticism which confirms Fenando Perez as one the most original voices in contemporary Cuban cinema.

Omara (Fernando Perez/ Cuba / 1978/ 26')

Fernando Perez presents the life and career of Omara Portuando. Through dramatic sequences interwoven with interviews and performances we come to appreciate this legendary Cuban star.


Friday 21st April

SOY CUBA (I am Cuba) (Mikheil Kalatozishvili/Cuba/USSR/1964/140')

This Soviet-Cuban hymn from 1964 to the Castro revolution has more than its fair share of agitprop naivety - but for its sheer dazzling technique, and the glorious beauty of its monochrome cinematography, it deserves impregnable classic status. Director Mikhail Kalatozov follows the progress of the revolution from the poolside decadence of Batista's Havana, the pauperisation of the tenant farmers, through to the student agitation, and finally the arrival of Castro's troops from their mountain stronghold in the east.

To the accompaniment of narration co-scripted by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the story is achieved in a series of superbly choreographed single-take sequences, with a drama-doc vérité effect. The first scene is a breathtaking hand-held travelling shot that moves sinuously through the partygoers and bikini-clad women by a penthouse hotel pool, winding up underwater with the swimmers. Did cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky have his camera readied in a tiny goldfish bowl? Later, in the epic funeral scene, his camera soars up past the Havana balconies, noses through a cigar factory and then appears to float over the rail looking down on the giant procession as if suspended from a cloud. And this decades before Steadicam technology arrived.
It is really miraculous work from Urusevsky. Why do film fanatics not jabber endlessly about these astonishing sequences? Why are they not endlessly quoted and pastiched in other movies? I Am Cuba is a gripping, if stylised, historical document. The drinking song of bullying US sailors has a strange modern resonance: "The gals here in old Guantanamo/They give us all we want and never say no." The corruption and prostitution of Batista's capital finds a grim echo in the Havana of 2002, which El Commandante has allowed to become the Bangkok of the Caribbean.
I Am Cuba combines the high-minded severity of Russian cinema with the exuberance of Vigo or Fellini, and even anticipates the conspiracy-fear of Oliver Stone.

NOW (Santiago Alvarez/Cuba/1965/8')

A song by Lena Horne, a montage by Santiago Alvarez, about racism in the USA. A real lesson for aspiring film makers : a "by any means necessary" approach to making powerful a statement in moving image and sound...

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