Serve this text all as a well-deserved tribute to Carlos León and Gina Preval.
If there was consensus among the heterogeneous group of filmmakers that made up the International Catholic Film Office (OCIC, now part of Signis) in the mid-1990s, it was to call Walfredo Piñera a teacher.
The collective (Raúl Rodríguez, Caridad Abascal, Pablo Ramos, Rosa Notario, Mayra Taty Alvarez, Caridad Cumaná, Gladys Castresana, Carmen Rivero, Concepción Conchita Valdés, Carlos León, Alberto Ramos, Oscar Alonso, Jorge Villa, Francisco Paquito Yags…), supported by Arístides O’Farrill and directed by Gustavo Andújar, together with Gina Preval – the latter as president of honor – knew that, by the confidence he inspired, the old man was something of an authenticity.
We could dare, because he came from walking long and tortuous paths, always loyal to his compass: he was long the dean of film criticism in Cuba, with unalterable Christian faith. Having his approval – like Gina’s – was a guarantee that what we were doing was well channeled.
At the time, Walfredo was newly retired from the University of Havana, where he had worked for twenty-eight years as a film specialist, first in the Department of Audiovisual Media (1965-1977) and later in the University Extension Directorate (1977-1993).
He had previously put his film knowledge at the service of the Department of Fine Arts of the Municipality of Havana and – since the mid-1950s – the Industrial Division of the Banco de Fomento Agrícola y Industrial de Cuba (BANFAIC).
To us, or to some of us, what enchanted us most was his journalistic itinerary, the written form he had given to his knowledge and the sites on which he had published. That man came from showing weapons in El País-Excélsior (1951); to put out fires in La Quincena (1960-1961); to direct Cinema Guide in difficult times for the Church (1960-1961)…
Above all, he had been a theatre and film critic in the Navy Journal, between 1952 and 1960. That is, from a very conservative, Hispanic, sometimes erratic publication… and all you want, but also one of the paradigms of journalism in Cuba, with a long service sheet to the culture of the island.
More than once some of us heard him narrate his memories of the last days of the Diary…, and it was fascinating to hear stories where Tirians and Trojans behaved as one knows they do in life itself, and not in versions riddled with biases and commitments. of all colors.
He spoke proudly of his learning there, at the foot of the canyon, with the guidance of another great Cuban journalist: Francisco Ichazo. And we were craving that Walfredo was somehow “connecting” us like this to iconic names in the Cuban press – and the literary avant-garde.
It was the same pride that we felt when we coincided in some event or work project with that master of journalism who was Juan Emilio Friguls, also Catholic. They were friends; God had wanted both Friguls and Piñera to show their work and their faith, as a badge, in those late 20th century Cuban. And José Manuel Valdés Rodríguez was always considered the man who had directed him in the secrets of cinema.
Many of the pages he wrote are yet to be collected in books. Some of his best ideas were turned to essays – he would have preferred to call them background articles – which he gave to Echoes, Signis’s publication that always trusted his critical gaze.
Fortunately, an INITIATIVE of OCIC-Mundial, interested in disseminating the achievements of various cinematography, allowed us today to have a historiographical version of our cinema, which Walfredo wrote with Caridad Cumaná: Mirada al cine Cubano, from 1999. Having attended that birth as an editor convinced me of all his wisdom and the lucidity that still accompanied him.
A lesser-known feature of the veteran specialist was his enthusiasm for ecumenism. It was a pleasant surprise to “discover it”, during those same years, in an event held in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Havana, and also to see that there was like fish in the water, surrounded by old acquaintances.
Then we corroborated his experience in this regard, when he invited us (to Eduardo Mesa and a server) to a three-day day to analyze the impact of the visit to Cuba of his holiness John Paul II, held in the Cardenense subsidiary of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology of Matanzas. There were also scholars from government institutions. In the midst of a climate of absolute respect, Walfredo showed himself to be a firm man in his faith, but convinced of the power of reflection and dialogue.
It was that, one of the many experiences that left us with the conviction that the teacher was a man who always aimed, he bet, on the future.
That is why the segment selected to close this evocation speaks precisely of the future. These are two paragraphs taken from the introduction he placed at the beginning of his aforementioned book. There, after making a lucid diagnosis of what was going on with national cinema towards the end of the 1990s, Walfredo Piñera dared to recommend themes and ideas that surely the reader familiar with cuban 21st century film production will recognize as accurate, and even in force:
“An immense fan has Cuban cinema before it, at the delicate historical juncture we are facing. In the perspective of future productions – usually supported by co-production – films of the most diverse kind will emerge. But it will be particularly important to continue on the open path by the films that have transcended our borders, and among other things, have justified the OCIC’s interest in knowing and disseminating our cinematic past. In these films viewers will see our efforts, sorrows and joys reflected. The problems of Cuban youth, the traumas arising from emigration, the analysis of generational contradictions… they are fruitful quarries of approachable issues of potential profitability, provided that they are treated spontaneously and without prejudice. In particular, I consider important the appearance of films related to the essential reunion, and to the reconciliation of the great Cuban family.
“Such is my desire, at the gates of the third millennium, after so many years and experiences, almost all the result of a cinematic passion rooted in patriotic love and the Christian faith.”1 Ω
1 Walfredo Piñera y Caridad Cumaná: Look at Cuban cinema, Brussels, Ed. OCIC, 1999, p. 19.