Get out of the comfort zone: Workshop for filmmakers

By: Berta Carricarte Melgarez

Fotograma del documental El año en que no hubo año.

Being young, from my point of view and my experience, is a mental condition. Sorry to use a common place, and at the same time of such free mention. However, the truth is that “young man must be whoever he wants to be,” as the bolero says. This has little influence on biological age, and although it is a subject that has a lot of fabric to cut through, I think one of the fundamental premises to recognize that we are facing a young person is to see their need to learn. Thirst for knowledge is a symptom of undeniable youth. Learning about this and the other, because “it can serve me in the future,” gives a clear idea of how young a person feels. Another feature is the ability to adapt, as well as the need to experience changes, to revolutionize, to do something different, novel, what could also be “to leave the comfort zone”. There are many old people who do not go over twenty-five years old, and people of the so-called “old age”, who go around the world with a project notebook under their arm, thus accusing a teenage vitality. Seen in this way, the ICAIC Young Show – which is held annually – can be a display case capable of transparenting the true artistic age of performers who, according to their identity card, are under thirty-five years old.
Organized by the Foundation of the New Latin American Cinema and the Cuban Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS Cuba), with the collaboration of the ICAIC Youth Show, the 1st. April held the XVI Talent Workshop for the Future. The Walfredo Piñera screening room hosted a group of novice video artists, who shared experiences with veteran filmmakers interested in young film production.
Eight works completed this time the payroll selected for the workshop: five fiction shorts and three documentaries. I maintain the category system applied in the ICAIC Sample, although if it were more precise, I dare say that only two documentaries were presented, because the third corresponds to what is good time ago is called video creation (or video art); this is a type of audiovisual work that oversizes the importance of formal elements, makes them prominence, so that the important thing is, above all, the how and not so much what. The first background to this practice in the international space could be found associated with the experimental aspect of film production of the 1920s, as well as the work of plastic artists. In Cuba you can consider pieces such as Now by Santiago Alvarez, also precursor to the so-called video clip; as well as Coffe arábiga, among other similar ones by Nicolás Guillén Landrián and Cosmorama by Enrique Pineda Barnet.
A little closer in time, they are recognized as video art Dark caged rhinos (very fashionable) (1990), by Juan Carlos Cremata; and Love and Pain (1990), by Enrique Alvarez. Precisely from the 1990s to the present day, the number of works that can be classified under this item has expanded, without undermining other classifications that can be taught to them. Plastic artists such as Néstor Siré and Juan Carlos Alom have presented works that support a perfect dialogue with dissimilar audiovisual production modalities, so they have found a place in different editions of the ICAIC Exhibition.
In the case of the Workshop, we mean Home (Alejandro Alonso, production of the International School of Film and Television, EICTV), with a photograph very contrasted and manipulated as if it were footage. From my opinion as a spectator, Home expresses the collapse, the phoency, the obsolescence associated with a concept of nation; concept that is based on something very concrete such as the city, the country, a memory, a map, coordinates or the name “Cuba”, which, as a town, city or village, exists in at least eight states of North America. Like any good video to the same extent that it hermetizes his speech, he uses various expressive resources (the soundtrack, among them), to provide the recipient of a poetic repertoire that nurtures his experience and guides his interpretation of the artistic fact.
As for the documentaries, I would like to start with The Old Heralds (Luis Alejandro Yero, production EICTV), where a small panorama of the life of a nonagenary marriage composed by Tatá and Esperanza is offered. While the old man cares for a coal oven for long days, and Esperanza takes care of the housework, television – the only sumptuous object in that unfessed bohio – broadcasts the assembly process that led to the presidency to the successor of Raúl Castro. The greatest aesthetic achievement of this short lies in the perfect polarity it achieves between the political-media event that represents a novel historical fact, and the intimate reality of two elders immersed in material ruin, in what constitutes the beginning of the end of a life cycle as a couple. Perhaps the antecedent of this video is the documentary Verde Olivo (2017), with excellent direction, photography and editing by Celina Escher, and also produced by EICTV. In this case, the long-running marriage is led by Teresa, a former communist fighter, very well informed of national reality through the media: the Granma newspaper, radio and television. An unconditional follower of Fidel and Raul, she celebrates Obama’s visit, an event that follows through the screen; while correcting his enthusiasm for that historic moment, recalling the bloody discord that has characterized America’s relations with the Cuban Revolution. At the same time – and in this both short ones shake hands – the living conditions of this everlasting fighter raise a subtle contradiction between the propaganda oropel of public policy, official, and the everyday reality of the humble majority.
As for the documentary The Year That There Was No Year (Fernando Almeida, 2017, independent production), it is an example of what the most lozana inventiveness is able to create. Without academic studies on film, at the stroke of pure intuition and reinterpretation of the entire visual acquis that accompanies the development of any subject born in the last twenty or twenty-five years, Almeida manages to build a sincere and aesthetically laudable discourse, on a subject closed to the official discussion in the present, but much debated among those affected: military service , with an emphasis on the compulsory provision of those who enter the university and are delayed their expectations of study for a very long year. Almeida does not choose the traditional ways to tell a story or document a fact; he skips the conventions of the genre, and also does not follow the rules of an alleged Orthodox dramaturgy, which is sold as unappealable. It’s not like he’s pioneering any anticipated aesthetics. He simply handles his filming instrument (his cell phone) with free will, adapting to the circumstances of his film process: immediacy, spontaneity, surprise, ability to discriminate data, intelligent and poetic management of the expressive resources of audiovisual language, ethics in the approach of his topics, and not least, a conceptual platform, solid enough to sustain a point of view without fissures or ambivalences.
With regard to fiction shorts, perhaps the most indeable is located in the title Alberto (Raúl Prado Rodríguez, 2018) and Generación (Meilin Quiles Durañona, 2018, production FAMCA). The first tells the story of what Alberto discovers when he returned to Cuba after many years of absence. The problem is that the conflict is too hasty, and is conclusive in the first third of the work. Everything else becomes a redundancy, exposing the impericia in terms of direction of actors, dialogues and dramaturgy in the general sense. The second (Generation), is a pseudo-scientific fantasy that may have traveled better along the paths of absurdity and comedy, without venturing into a drama with no time to develop a less easy and trite plot. In his favor it is worth highlighting the direction of art, which provided a high degree of coherence and significance to the image; undeserved effort at the banality of the story.
Relentless models of child performance that haunt us since time immemorial – not everything should be blamed on La Colmenita – they fuse cuban film directors when they introduce children as protagonists or secondary to their films. International cinematography can now be reviewed for paradigmatic children’s performances: The Color of Paradise (Majid Majidi,1999), The Search (Michel Hazanavicius, 2018), Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, 2018). But, as things are with childish acting in the cinema of this island, Bad Things is not a bad example. It is also true that Coralia Veloz’s performance enriches the staging by playing an old cranky woman, whose chicken has suffered some mistreatment by children. The thesis of the short intertwines two very interesting elements. On the one hand, it uses popular knowledge when it points to those who judge their fellow human beings from their social extraction, and on the other hand, he throws a subtle call to alert society to the ways of education and childcare. The same prosecutes the mother who leaves her officious person in the care of unscrupulous or dumb people, as well as those absent parents who supplement their educational role and indispensable presence with technological-domestic artifacts to entertain their children. But in addition, the short leaves open speculation about the intricate paths that can pass through the sexual awakening of adolescents when they lack the orientation of adults.
In a way the theme of “education” is taken up in Flying Pigeon (Daniel Santoyo Hernández, 2018). A middle-aged man accompanies and instructs a young decolo, on how to execute assaults on armed robberies. Despite immersing himself in the territories of marginality, the short is not intended to teach any kind of anthropological lesson, nor to be representative of a sociological thesis. In a scene that seems to pay homage to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino – so given to reproducing in his films the spontaneous loquacity of everyday life – the experienced vejete begins a dissertation on the humanistic qualities of the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who place him above his counterparts. That scene, together with the final sequence, are very welcome; however, there is plenty of the last shot, that is, the last image, which will have been left as beautiful, but instead sacrifices the elliptical closure, suggestive and perfect, that already had the film.
Perhaps EICTV has put a challenge on its students: counting by using a sequence plane. This filming technique involves a camera socket that transits through different plane scales, without cutting. This implies a maximum level of coordination of the staging and handling of the camera, as well as a very well calculated actorly deployment, since any failure means starting to film the sequence from the beginning, since this can represent from a few minutes to significantly long periods (the whole of the film). Leaving aside the numerous details involved in a sequence plane, as well as the films and directors that have made use of it, let’s say it’s a super challenge to start narrating something, in a few minutes, using such a resource.
The exhibition was intended to present two attractive examples: Final (2018) of the terrible enfant Yimit Ramírez and Los amantes (2018) by Alán González, where the expressive potentials of the sequence plane stand out creatively. The last short illustrates an instant of a couple’s life devoted to a limiting circumstance; we don’t know what happened before or what happens after those eight minutes on screen. In both the case of The Lovers and the End, the dramatic situations where the sequence plane takes off, are presented in half res, that is, when they have already left behind all preamble and approach the climax. Each, in its own style and in line with the particularities of the chosen spaces and the nature of the story, places the protagonist in a nerve situation, explosive, therefore intrigue prevails over his formal resolution. Both works competed in the fiction section and won, respectively, among other lauros, the award for best actress (Lola Amores) and best actor (Milton García).
What was presented at the Talents for the Future Workshop is a good curatorial summary of the ICAIC Sample, which in its widest selection had unforgivable slips and decalabrating falls at times. For example, it included a fictional short titled Pig (with script and direction by Yunior García Aguilera), which, while boasting an acceptable staging, is ethically unacceptable because of the disrespect it poses when manipulating a biblical quotation for obscene purposes, for its declared misogyny, and for leaving a message of tacit consent to sexual practices that undermine the normal development of childhood.
On the other hand, it is worth mentioning the excellence of the documentary feature film Brouwer. The origin of the Shadow (Katherine T. Gavilán, Lisandra López Fabé, 2019), which by its extension could not be included among the works exhibited in this Workshop.
From my point of view, cinema made by young people in Cuba tends to break the classic moldings of Aristotelian storytelling, too discredited already by postmodernity. Directors such as Chantal Akerman, Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovski, Shohei Imamura, Nuri Ceylan, Brillante Mendoza, Abbas Kiarostami, Lucrecia Martel and even Cuban Tomás Piard, among many others, have shown that cinema can be made outside of the repeated and anquiloous Hollywood gloss. The classical dramaturgy reduced to fit into the imaginary dominator of patriarchy can be deftly reinterpreted or surpassed by new narrative strategies that are true expression of new times, and that serve to discourage wars, phobias, intolerances and ignorance daughter of laziness. I remember Abbas Kiarostami (great Iranian film director) telling me that the first time he read a book about film, he didn’t get it, and put it aside. May our great-year-olds trained or not in schools for future filmmakers have enough youthful arrogance to do the same, for it is better to be creative ignoring the academy, than to be sloppy trying to imitate it. Ω

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.