For Sundays? Movies

Por: Daniel Céspedes Góngora

Marta Araújo

I can’t deny my discomfort on Sunday afternoons. They have a melancholy leave, in which you can remember how much you have lived and the little desire to undertake something new. Laziness and anguish seem to be typical of how the afternoon of that day has a terrible influence on my optimism and energies. Well, on Mondays, which I love, albeit less than Thursdays – blessed on Thursdays and I don’t know the reasons yet, since I was born on a Friday – it’s as if everything starts, as if the seventh day of the week needed to leave it behind. I haven’t been to a wake and I remember him funerally. I go to a party or visit family and friends and just hold back scraps of conversations, very few images of what happened. From the lively and perhaps sparkling atmosphere, I have almost nothing left. I don’t know what Sunday afternoons will be like in other countries. But, the ones I’ve suffered here, from a child to this date, still find them unbearable. Ah, but that time of day was (and is) caring and enjoyable when we “forgot” it with movies.

When I used to see only three: the children’s matiné, the afternoon and the evening morning, I remember being recorded in the afternoon, the one I remembered from scenes and sequences, when I couldn’t even tell from each other. Years later, growing up and harboring myself in schools on the field, my emotional relief overturned him in telling the film seen on Sunday. Only Sunday Tanda and then Art Seven, helped me for years to miss my house and my parents less. The luck that there were always friends who shared my love for sundays. Today, frying almost the forty years, I remember very much that stage that also included 24 per second with Enrique Colina. The critic I am today was formed with the two Saturday films, with how little I could see for a time of Film History, Take One, The Seventh Door and much of the cinemas and video theaters of my village of La Fe on youth island.

But it was always Sunday afternoon’s film I could see most closely. Sunday changed for me because, even if I knew what it was going to wear, the film was a revelation, if not a surprise. Faces already known or new. It didn’t matter. He had a notebook pointing to the year of the film and the names of actresses and actors. I didn’t used to wear the directors because for moviegoers in Cuba it’s customary to say “Harrison Ford’s movie” and not Spielberg’s. Sunday’s Tanda, Arte siete or its summer variant Cinemavisión represented for this viewer what of the audiovisual universe provided me with the expected night programs Prismas and Blue Huron, the best cultural magazine that Cuban television has ever had. Prisms was well marked by circumstances. He left at the right time. But what happened to Blue Huron? It maintained a laziness in its structure and each of its sections was a world. One day he stopped dating and we didn’t wonder why. Anyway, I wasn’t coming back.

I remember seeing almost every film genre in Sunday’s film, which started on channel six, then called Cubavisión. Over time, the afternoon film would initially take on two genres: comedy and adventure cinema. However, comedies and badly called “action films” not passed tones by the hour and the fact that it was propitious: the family would gather and everyone enjoyed it even when it was a drama like The Oil of Life (George Miller, 1992), a very difficult film for the schedule, but that could not be placed in another cinematic space of Cuban television. Accustomed, as the viewer was, to the stereotypes of comedy and adventure cinema, he occasionally had to face a drama like Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979), although what he wanted to see was one of the parts of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the Meryl Streep of Death Suits Him (Robert Audrey , 1992), the Brad Pitt of Legends of Passion (Edward Zwick, 1994), the Antonio Banderas de La máscara del zorro (Martin Campbell, 1998)… The musical would also have its moments. But the directors knew full well that whatever the audience wanted were feature films like The Mask (Chuck Russell, 1994) or Dr. Jekyll and Miss. Hyde (David Price, 1995).

On Sunday afternoons he came to achieve what was later a gain from Brazilian soap operas and some Cubans: the family, which once gathered to eat, was meeting again in the house thanks to the bewitch of the soap opera of the moment. The family event gathered by something nice would again have periods of grateful solaity with the possibility that some members had of accessing the VHS videotapes and later the DVDs. There was also the event of the dark room. However, even though companies, channels or companies have set out to win over audiences for world premieres, the magic of movie theaters would be broken forever. Already today or better, for more than ten years when it comes to Cuba, with the entry of new technologies (laptops, cell phones, iPod…) and the arrival of the “weekly package”, the way of watching cinema has changed audiences, not only as soon as they want to see it but how they want to see it. When I interviewed Dean Luis Reyes, about the significance of the package for Cuban audiences, he replied to me what we will long remember as an unprecedented alternative in the history of audiovisual consumption from this island, for “The appearance of the package is as significant for Cuban cultural history (although it is difficult to demonstrate it with figures) as the creation of the network of public libraries and the national printing press” .1 while Antonio Enrique González Rojas assured:

“The package is an alternative channel that allows us to synchronize somewhat with the world from which we remain quite isolated. It is a fairly inclusive platform (although from its fold still escape many products, unconsciously or consciously) that compensates slightly, but at the same time definingly, the lack of full access to the Information Society, with all the conspiratorial lights and shadows that you want to point out. This will come at some point, for life always makes its way through all the obstacles put to it with regulatory and hegemonic pretensions. And this is the new society that is already filtered in Cuba by a thousand cracks.”2

No Cuban television space can rival the expansion of audiovisuals and other offers that promotes and distributes the package. Now, what is asked is the right capacity within that freedom offered to the consumer, but to get it right you have to see. This involves both choosing and making mistakes, s stoping as much as you appreciate to consider another work. It’s a constant quest that rarely brings significant amazement. The Art Seven team, like any Cuban film program that is respected, considers the offers of the package because it is the most economical, freely accessible way of knowing what is circulating in audiovisual matters, especially fiction and documentary.

With the start and layout of new channels, the national programming grid expanded the simultaneous display of feature films, to the point that competitiveness in the release or programming of films by Multivision, educational channels and Cubavision was intentionally and indirectly implemented. It is striking that Art Seven films have maintained their fundamental purpose: to entertain the family. So their plots and conflicts gravitate over family ties, even when they are long with equestrian affairs or where the protagonist is a song like Beethoven (Brian Levant, 1992) or a pig like Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995). It is not then surprised that the program’s advisor (Liliam Alfaro Pérez), who chooses the films, without bypassing the suggestions of her writers (Yoel del Río and Rubén Padrón), select works related to the family and consider taking advantage of memorable dates concerning mother and father’s day, as the national ephemeris attends in the same way. Movies don’t make the days, but they can certainly make them better. Sundays, at least in Cuba, depend on the films you decide to watch.

Art seven recommends, but first and foremost pleases. And already achieving pleasure is a challenge, when the young man sees from other channels what he wants and if it is not enough, turns on his computer to start or continue a series. Could the same features be supported for all the movies chosen in the program? It would be very unfair even if the most critical viewer claimed yes. From time to time I hear the phrase: “that film is for Art Seven”, an insulting phrase not only for the selected films, but even for the conception and super-lens of a program designed for the family. With regard to the above, Rubén Padrón is clear that the expression of marras unreservedly alludes to “loose films”. But, he remembers that you have to adjust to who is directed in the space and you can not always choose high quality films in terms of arguments and screenings. Family dramas, whether from minority cultures, present universal values, do not need aesthetic-formal deployments of relevance. What would Spanish director Isabel Coixet think, which she can’t stand on Sundays, knowing that one of her most introspective films like La librería (2018) premiered in a program like Arte siete? Nothing less than The Bookstore, considered here a “domino movie”, to which the death of one of its characters was stolen, by schedule and public. We didn’t see him lying on the ground, but we knew he died.

Does Art Seven fulfill its role as a television program? Reach and fidelity show how many viewers enjoy it as a family, those who in a survey one could ask them early at the beginning of Monday: How was yesterday afternoon? And they’d say, “Sunday? Movie! Ω


[1] Dean Luis Reyes: “Add pleasure to the pleasure of cinema”, in Daniel Céspedes Góngora, “Passionate and rational. Interviews with Cuban film critics” (book in preparation).

2 Antonio Enrique González Rojas: “I have not ceased to be that omnivorous child”, in Daniel Céspedes Góngora, “Passionate and rational. Interviews with Cuban film critics” (book in preparation).

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