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Cuban Film Events

Cuban Film Festival:  Memories of Underdevelopment

2:00 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 13, 2003
Webster Hall Room 105
Admission: free

As the first film from post-revolutionary Cuba to be released in the United States, this had a widespread impact unequalled in the history of Third World cinema. Set in the early 1960s, the film centers on a Europeanized Cuban intellectual playboy, too idealistic to leave for Miami, but too decadent to fit into the new society. Directed by the late Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba’s foremost filmmaker. Derek Malcolm, of London’s The Guardian newspaper, ranked Memories No. 54 on his list of the 100 greatest movies. “Of all the dozens of films produced in Cuba through Castro's insistence on the importance of the cinema, Memories of Underdevelopment is the most sophisticated,” Malcolm said. “So much so, in fact, that those opposed to the revolution tend to call it a magnificent and unrepeatable fluke, produced as it was by a film institute that was virtually a Marxist ministry.”

(1968, 110 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  I Am Cuba

7:00 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 13, 2003
Matthews Hall Auditorium
Admission: free

A Cuban-Soviet collaboration, directed by Soviet filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov. “Set before Castro’s triumph, I Am Cuba propagandistically illustrates the abuses and exploitation that caused people to join the fight against oppression,” says Dennis West, who teaches Hispanic film and literature at the University of Idaho. “The film takes place in the late 1950s, when Fidel Castro, from his guerrilla base in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra, used a clandestine radio to call on his fellow citizens to overthrow the repressive dictatorship of the U.S. support tyrant Fulgencio Batista. Kalatozov’s film consists of four stories framed by a visual introduction to Cuba — long takes flying over the island and then moving in a canoe through a poor river village — and a grand finale in which pro-Castro guerrillas, fresh from battle, parade past the camera in heroic low angles.”

(1964, 141 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  Cuban Story

2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2003
Webster Hall Room 105
Admission: free

Depicts the drama of the bloody struggle against Baptista. Features rarely seen documentary footage of Fidel Castro’s rise to power, with commentary and analysis by host Errol Flynn. Producer Victor Pahlen and Flynn owned a movie theatre together in Havana. They happened to be there when Castro’s revolution broke out around them, so they took to the streets with their cameras to document history as it happened. The result was a unique documentary of Castro's uprising, featuring unrivaled footage of the conflict and Castro himself. After the revolution, the film was screened at the Moscow Film Festival, where it was the first time the Russian people had ever seen the face of Castro. That one screening was the only presentation of Cuban Story until 2002. When Pahlen died, he left the original negatives to his daughter Kyra, who later restored and publicized the film.

(1959, 60 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  Cuba Va: Challenge of the Next Generation

2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003
Webster Hall Auditorium
Admission: free

A controversial look at Cuba’s future from the dynamic perspective of Cuban youth. Young men and women born after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 face the challenge of finding solutions to Cuba's economic crisis in the 1990s. Committed socialists and disillusioned dissidents passionately debate the merits of socialism vs. capitalism, the need for changes, internal difficulties and international politics. Interviews and spontaneous debates interweave with rarely seen views of Cuban youth culture. Scenes illustrate both the severity of the economic crisis and the long-term benefits of the Cuban Revolution.

(1993, 59 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  Life is to Whistle

7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003
Matthews Hall Auditorium
Admission: free

The award-winning film from Fernando Perez follows the romantic travails of three Havana residents — a ballerina who takes a vow of chastity, a musician who seduces tourists, and an inhibited social worker. Winner of the Special Jury Award in Latin American Cinema at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

(1998, 106 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  San Sabroson: Antesala de la Salsa

 Cuban Film Festival:  San Sabroson: Antesala de la Salsa2:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003
Webster Hall Room 105300
Admission: free

A complete history of Latin music from Africa to Cuba to the United States. The documentary covers El Son, Guaracha, Cha cha cha, Mambo, Salsa, Rumba, Guanguaco, etc. and has interviews with some of the greatest names in Latin music. It has an excellent soundtrack with live clips of the best known musicians.

(2000, 90 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:   Buena Vista Social Club

7:00 p.m.
 Cuban Film Festival:   Buena Vista Social ClubThursday, Oct. 16, 2003
Matthews Hall Auditorium
Admission: free

In 1996, composer, producer, and guitar legend Ry Cooder entered Egrem Studios in Havana with the forgotten greats of Cuban music, many of them in their 60s and 70s, some of them long since retired. The resulting album, Buena Vista Social Club, became a Grammy-winning international bestseller. When Cooder returned to Havana in 1998 to record a solo album by 72-year-old vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, filmmaker Wim Wenders was on hand to document the occasion. Wenders splits the film between portraits of the performers, who tell their stories directly to the camera as they wander the streets and neighborhoods of Havana, and a celebration of the music heard in performance scenes in the studio, in their first concert in Amsterdam, and in their second and final concert at Carnegie Hall.

(1999, 101 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  Strawberry & Chocolate

 Cuban Film Festival:  Strawberry & Chocolate2:00 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
Webster Hall Room 105
Admission: free

A sensation from Cuba in which a chance encounter over ice cream between a middle-aged gay man and a young, fervent believer in contemporary Cuban Marxism sets the stage for a funny but serious film about difference and acceptance. This film broke box office attendance records in Cuba and was the first Cuban picture to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. Director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea was the most prominent of the filmmakers working in Cuba's government-supported film institute, the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC).

(1994, 104 minutes)

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Cuban Film Festival:  Guantanamera

 Cuban Film Festival:  Guantanamera2:00 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
Webster Hall Room 105
Admission: free

Cuba as seen through the eyes of two filmmakers who clearly love their country despite its imperfections. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea died while making it; the direction was taken over by his collaborator, the writer Juan Carlos Tabio, and it stars his widow, Mirtha Ibarra. The romantic comedy tells the story of a famous singer who who returns to the town of Guantanamo for a celebration in her honor. Reunited with her girlhood lover after 50 years, she dies in his arms from overstimulation. The farce of returning her body to Havana for proper burial provides the vehicle for an easygoing yet incisive overview of contemporary Cuba and a lighthearted admonishment to live for the moment.

(1997, 110 minutes)

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