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LatinoBuzz: Cuba Update: An In-Depth Look at Cuba’s Film Business

Cuba Update: An In-Depth Look at Cuba’s Film Business

** NEW UPDATE: Two more American films have come to my attention through readers of the blog:

Alison Klayman wrote to say “I know you said at least two films, but I wanted specifically to alert you to the fact that my film “The 100 Years Show” is also playing in the Panorama Documental sections (same as PJ Letofsky’s film).  “The 100 Years Show” is about 100-year old Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera, and was produced with RatPac (Brett Ratner) Documentary Films. I’ll be attending the festival too.  

Alex Mallis wrote in to say: “Our short narrative, “La Noche buena”  (the first American-directed since the embargo) is also screening at the festival.

Original Blog:
At least two films by American filmmakers will screen this year at the Havana Film Festival, whose official name is Festival de Cine Nuevo Latinamericano. As the Centerpiece Film, Bob Yari, producer of almost 50 films, will screen his second directed film “Papa” about Ernest Hemingway. It can be called “the first [official or legal] American film made in Havana in the last fifty years”, though underground films have been made (e.g., “Love & Suicide”). “Papa” is being sold at AFM by Elias Axume’s Premiere Entertainment.

Doc filmmaker PJ Letofsky will also be screening his film “ Tarkovsky: Time Within Time” which just premiered at the Sao Paolo Film Festival.

Many U.S. citizens are now interested in going to Havana. To give an in-depth look at Cuba’s film business, I am publishing a [long] chapter of what I hope will soon be published, my book on Iberoamerican film business. I will also be publishing another [shorter] interview here soon with Havana Film Festival Director, Ivan Giroud.

Cuba (Chapter Seven)

Officially the Republic of Cuba, or in Spanish, República de Cuba, the nation is comprised of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. To the north of Cuba lies the United States; the Bahamas are to the northeast, México to the west, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with over 11 million inhabitants.

Cuba is undergoing a transition into a market, entrepreneurial economy under the Presidency of Raul Castro. With this transition, the cinema industry is also undergoing great changes. The state mandated organization, ICAIC, which has been running the cinema industry, is now under scrutiny. New legislation concerning the film industry is slowly underway as a result of discussions ongoing within the film community. Hopefully the establishment of diplomatic relations will the U.S. last October will propel changes, though without lifting the embargo, it may not.

History of Cinema of Cuba

Cuba’s elite has always stayed in touch with the latest in culture as it developed in Europe during the Spanish colonial era. Cuba’s tradition of cinema dates back to 1897 when the Lumiére Brothers representative from France stopped in Havana to show their films on a tour of the Antilles Islands, México, Venezuela, and the Guineas. Cuba’s particular style of cinema, called the “Cinema of the Greater Antilles”, evolved from the theater of melodrama and comedy and from the radio dramas of Felix B. Caignet, all of which formed the popular melodramas and comedies we still see today.

Mexican coproductions and U.S. filmmakers escaping the monopolistic Edison came to Cuba as well as to California in the early days of film. Federico Garcia Lorca arrived in Cuba in 1930 with a screenplay, “Voyage of the Moon”, and a print of “Un Chien Andalou” hoping to break from the Paris-Berlin monopoly, but his plans never took shape. Many films from Spain, México, Argentina and Uruguay also played in Cuba. Some leading Cuban actors had a strong presence in México and Argentina. Musicians such as Ernesto Lecuona, Bola de Nieve and Rita Montaner performed in movies in several countries.

Cuba, along with Mexico and Argentina, has the most developed cinema culture of Latin America. At its most prosperous, it had the third largest number of theaters in Latin America until the special period when USSR withdrew its support. Today it has 39 movie theaters. Three of them, including the Yara in Havana, had been built especially for 3D in the 1950s.

Movie going is one of Cuba’s national pastimes, rating perhaps as high as baseball. The average Cuban sees one and a half films a year. However, the lack of international appeal for most of its comedies and melodramas has held its international growth in check up to today. That is now changing.

The international nature of Cuban cinema was consciously defined after the Revolution of 1959 when the Institute for Cuban Art and Industry Cinematography (ICAIC) was created by Fidel Castro and entrusted to his university classmate, Alfredo Guevara. The law creating ICAIC was incorporated into the Cuban Constitution itself just three months after the Revolution and was an important part of the Nuevo Cine Latinoamerico, a movement throughout Latin America as the Latin American nations threw off their dictatorships. Film, according to this law, is “the most powerful and provocative form of artistic expression, and the most direct and widespread vehicle for education and bringing ideas to the public.”[i]

Cinema was created for theatrical exhibition, for individuals and groups to share in smaller collectives, and for television.

The law ordaining ICAIC to control every cinematographic activity created no further rules about financing, about submitting, reading and approving project proposals or regarding any required time frames. ICAIC functions very internally with no outside surveillance.

Actually it is possible to make films without ICAIC participation, the point is that without ICAIC a film cannot get national distribution.

Over the past decade ICAIC has loosened its monopolistic administration. Every sector and every level of cinema is discussing the concept of a new Law of Cinema with the government’s interest in formalizing as law a more inclusive infrastructure with more transparent rules and regulations.

Under the leadership of Raul Castro, the island has been undergoing a gradual economic reform process allowing entrepreneurs to license their own businesses after decades of state monopoly. The measures include the authorization of self-employment in more than 200 small trades and activities. According to the government, there are currently 442,000 registered as “self-employed”. The Castro administration hopes for this emerging sector to absorb over a million state workers to be laid off in the coming years.[ii]

In October 2014, the state closed down many private cinemas which had emerged avowing to the love of cinema of the people. Many were 3D “salons” in homes or in separate rooms in restaurants. Authorities pressed for “order, discipline and obedience” in the growing small business sector. Needless to say, the films shown were pirated and not licensed by the rights holders. Nor was there ever any official licensing to privately owned theaters (yet).

However, these could provide a good source of taxation. It needs to be decided what shall be taxed, how tax monies should be apportioned for film funding, film education, what tax incentives the government might offer, how distribution will be subsidized, how archives may be maintained and presented, how to regulate screenings, dvd, TV and online platforms, what cash incentives might bring in production from the outside, what joint ventures within the Caribbean might be developed and how ICAIC is approaching and incorporating the changing environment. The Director of ICAIC, Robert Smith de Castro. is facing more challenges than its previous longtime Director, Alfredo Guevera, ever faced when the government provided everything. Now it must find answers from its neighbors and its own internal producers and procedures.

In general, funding a film, renting equipment and shooting in Cuba all need to be approved by ICAIC. This has changed somewhat as other players have come to take a role, like RTV Commercial, which is in fact the production company of Cuban National Television.

RTV Commercial coproduced the newest Cuban hit, “Conducta” (“Behavior”) with ICAIC. It premiered at FICG 2014 (Guadalajara International Film Festival) and played at TIFF 2014 and other festivals such as the Málaga Spanish Film Festival 2014 where it won five awards.

New Developments in Cuban Cinema

In 2014 there were 14 productions and coproductions made, compared to seven in 2009 and 4 in 2000 according to FnCl and OCAL, databases of Latin American film.

At Cannes’ Cinema du Monde in May 2014 and in San Sebastian’s Coproduction Forum, “ August” (“Agosto”) was one of 15 projects selected to be seen and discussed by the international community of sales, distribution and financial executives. Directed by Armando Capó Ramos and produced by La Feria Producciones’ Marcella Esquivel, it is a coproduction between Costa Rica and Cuba. It will shoot next year in Havana and is now raising funds through crowdfunding. Also featured among the 15 in San Sebastian was “Wolfdog” (“Hombre entre perro y lobo”) directed by Irene Gutiérrez and produced by El Viaje Films, a Spain-Cuba coproduction. 

Seeking modes of financing outside of government funding began in 2002 with the Festival of New Filmmakers showcasing projects was created by young people outside the ICAIC system. As a result of the 2002 event, five years later, a funding mechanism called Hacienda Cine was created by pulling productions from ICAIC Cuban television into centers and foundations that have other areas for audiovisual production. Pitch sessions for each selected entity were set up. The prize for production services worth 20,000 Convertible Cuban Pesos (equivalent to US $20,000) was set up by ICAIC Production. There are currently also smaller groups creating smaller formats, scientific or otherwise who are fomenting alternative forms of financing as well.

Lia Rodriguez Nieto is an attorney who was mentored by and worked fourteen years, until his death, with Camilo Vives, ICAIC’s head of production, first as an attorney and then as a producer. She has now taken charge of the industry section at the Havana Film Festival which Vives began in 2009. She and Antonio López, recently produced a Cuba-Panama-France coproduction El Acompañante” (“The Companion”) directed by Pavel Giroud. She states that over the last five to seven years, private (not state institutional) productions have co-existed with institutional production. However, it would be important for independent producers to have a more regulated and confident relationship with ICAIC in a more normalized fashion in order to have easier access to filming permits, forms of financing, banking relations, coproduction treaties, and a number of other elements which are essential to film production.

Rebeca Chávez is a director and a member of one of the groups pushing for a new cinema law which will, in principle, establish a new system incorporating the democratic participation of all people in the business, including techs, writers, directors, producers, actors, etc. and where all will have a democratically designed access to funds. In1984 she began her career as documentary director and her work has been given different national and international awards. She is the second woman in Cuba who has made feature films. She has taught several seminars on theory and practice of documentary cinema and on the Cuban experience in the genre in different institutions in the United States, Puerto Rico, England and Spain. She has worked as advisor for scripts of documentaries and feature films.

It is most important that the state has the will to make these changes, and it has stated it is open to changing the laws. Omar González who succeeded Alfredo Guevara as the head of the ICAIC was replaced in 2013 by 30 year ICAIC employee Roberto Smith de Castro who is now faced with reorganizing ICAIC and implementing new laws which are yet to be formulated. He is considered to be a patient and attentive man who listens and will work to incorporate the diverse opinions into a new working reality.

The son of the famed director Daniel Diaz Torres whose controversial film “Alicia en el pueblo de Maravillas” (“Alice in the City of Wonders”) in 1991 was so critical of the bureaucracy of the government at the time of the Soviet collapse that it caused the resignation of ICAIC’s director Espinosa, independent producer Daniel Diaz Ravelo points out that the independent producer is neither legal nor illegal but exists in a sort of limbo, free to produce whatever he or she wants but needing legal sanctions to access necessary permits, equipment, etc. And a filmmaker has no bank account so fiscal responsibility is difficult. One must get a certificate from ICAIC but there is no registration rule on how this is to be done.

And it gets more complicated. It is difficult to raise a US$400,000 budget without networking with filmmakers from other countries and yet travel is not easy for Cubans. They can travel — Cuba no longer has a problem with that -– but often they cannot get the visa required from the country they want or need to travel to. Daniel’s father had a problem in traveling to find financing for his last film, “La Pelicula de Ana” (“Ana’s Movie”), from former producers of his films. It did receive some funding from ICAIC and from former funding friend, Icestorm in Germany, and a loan from Ibermedia. Unfortunately Daniel Diaz Torres, Sr. recently died an early death and did not see the fruits of his labor in the 2013 Havana premiere.

The new generation today in Cuba is highly independent; it knows that diversity of film subjects and of filmmakers is key to Cuban cinema today and it is finding diverse sources of financing and distribution. It needs more information as well because everything depends upon contacts. Cineastes traveling to Cuba will find a vibrant group open to coproducing.

2015 marks the eighth year of the Havana Film Festival’s Works in Progress. The Post Production Award, Nuestra América Primera Copia, is an international competition for films from Latin America and from Cuba, with no restrictions; films can be produced by ICAIC or independently. For example, in 2013 awards went to four films, one from Chile, “I’m Not Lorena” (“No Soy Lorena”), which premiered at TIFF 2014; one from Argentina, “La Salada”, which premiered at the San Sebastian International Film Festival 2014 and TIFF 2014; and two from Cuba — one ICAIC film, “His Wedding Dress” (“Vestido de novia”), and the independent, “Venice” which was also TIFF 2014.

Thanks to an initiative by La Muestra, a group of Cuban production companies (including several independent ones), once a year support is awarded to four or five projects by young filmmakers. The independent film “Melaza” by Carlos Lechuga with the 5ta Avenida Productions premiered on October 3, 2013.

Rubén Padrón Astorga, writing for On Cuba [iii], November-December 2013 [1] writes:

The best prospects for our cinema today emerged like an earthquake in late April of this year, when Kiki Álvarez, the director of “Jirafas”, “La ola” and “Marina” and “Venezia”, initiated a debate on the problems that the country has with two vital filmmaking processes (production and distribution). Close to 60 audiovisual makers responded with a meeting where they formed a Filmmakers Committee to represent the rest of the country’s professionals.

Soon after its creation, the Committee announced that its objectives included ensuring the active participation of Cuban filmmakers in every decision that was made about [our] cinema, and protecting and developing its production at the industrial and independent levels. At this time, they are working together with ICAIC and the Ministry of Culture to pass a decree-law defining the autonomous audiovisual creator, which would legitimize filmmakers as a legal concept, with full rights to exercise their profession. However, the decree-law, which was drafted seven years ago and ratified by the most recent UNEAC Congress, was rewritten by the Filmmakers Committee so that it is not limited to recognizing audiovisual practice as individual work, but as collective, and so that it legally protects independent producers.

This committee, together with the so-called Ministry of Culture Temporary Working Group for the Transformation of ICAIC, is actively participating in drawing up a diagnosis of Cuban cinema’s problems, which will be followed with the drafting of policies and actions for solving those problems. This step will clear the way for the long-term creation of a comprehensive film law. This law, which would involve widening the scope of the law passed in 1959 for ICAIC’s founding, or drafting a new one, would include the creation of a film commission that would support production and make it viable; a promotion fund that would be governed by an arts council, and to which all independent and institutional artists could aspire; financial incentives that would promote the support of private and state companies and sponsors; and a general legal framework that conceives of cinema systemically, inspired by the useful experiences that have taken place in other countries in the region, such as Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.

A convocation of cinema directors was held May 4, 2013 in Strawberry and Chocolate Cultural Center, Havana to address the need to participate in all plans and activities planned for Cuban cinema. The meeting chose a working group composed of Enrique Kiki Álvarez, Enrique Colina, Rebeca Chávez Lourdes de los Santos, Daniel Diaz Ravelo, Pavel Giroud, Magda González Grau, Inti Herrera, Senel Paz, Fernando Perez, Manuel Perez and Pedro L. Rodríguez.

The main objective of this group is to represent the filmmakers at all levels and events, promote and ensure the active participation of the same in all decisions and projects that relate to Cuban cinema, and strive for the protection and development of these arts and industries and their makers, which is our right and duty as protagonists of this art. At its first meeting, the group reached the following conclusions and agreements (verbatim):

1 -. We recognize the Cuban Film Institute and the Film Industry (ICAIC) as the rector of the Cuban film industry state agency; born with the revolution and its long history is a legacy that belongs to all filmmakers. At the same time, we believe that the problems and projections of Cuban cinema today do not concern only the ICAIC, but also other institutions and institutional groups or independently involved in their production, without whose help and commitment is not possible to achieve meaningful and lasting solutions. For that reason, its reorganization and promotion can not be done only in the context of this organism.

2 -. We understand the Cuban film produced through institutional, independent mechanisms, co-production with third or mixed formulas, and as filmmakers to all creators, technicians and Cuban specialists of these arts and industries that do their work inside or outside the institutions , whatever they may be aesthetic, content or affinity group. Consequently, it is imperative the adoption of Decree Law Media Creator recognition. This decree should be enriched with all additional legal supplements necessary.

3 -. We consider essential enacting a Film Law, whose production and given all participate and to be the legal body to order and protect the artistic and economic activity in the country.

4 -. We consider it important to study and implement a Film Development Fund, to which all authors in accessing equal rights and conditions, and open call to an independent jury whose selection parameter is the quality and feasibility of the whole project.

5 -. At this stage, the filmmakers give priority to the organization and remodeling of the methods of production and realization of works, the concept that these are, first and last instance being essentially the way we express ourselves and connect with the public. Similarly, we propose a systemic boost our activity covering the organization and remodeling of the forms of production, distribution, exhibition and national and international projection of Cuban cinema.

6 -. Start work, reviewing and updating the document “Proposals for a renewal of Cuban cinema”, adopted at the Seventh Congress of the UNEAC in 2008. As progress is made, they will be sharing all the proposals with the filmmakers.

7 -. Exchanging proposals and views with the State Commission working on the development of proposals for the transformation of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry.

8 -. To express our deep concern for all matters concerning international relations and Cuban cinema projection, which was a revolutionary vanguard movement in the Latin American and global context. We strive for a quick recovery and exchange relationships with filmmakers from Latin America and the world, and the continuity of the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, in its next edition turns 35.

9 -. This representation group performed their work in ongoing dialogue and communication with all filmmakers through regular meetings, which shall have the power to ratify or renew the group members, making decisions of common interest and to identify priorities and lines of job.

Filmmakers Group in the Assembly elected Cuban Filmmakers Saturday May 4 at the Centro Cultural Fresa y Chocolate, after its first meeting on May 8.

Havana, May 8, 2013. This was a verbatim article in Cubarte Magazine. [iv]

Festivals/ Markets

In 1979 ICAIC created the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema aka Havana Film Festival as a way to disseminate its ethical convictions about developing film that was nonconformist, irreverent, critical of social injustice and rebellious against the pressures of the market across the continent. The event hosted over 600 filmmakers from Latin America and had as presidents of juries Gabriel García Márquez (Fiction ) and Santiago Álvarez (Documentaries and Cartoons.) The Coral Grand Prize winners were Geraldo Sarno (“Colonel Delmiro Gouveia”, Brazil) and Sergio Giral (“Maluala”, Cuba), in Fiction, Patricio Guzmán (“The Battle of Chile: the Struggle a People Without Arms”, Chile), Documentary, and Juan Padrón (“Elpidio Valdés”, Cuba) in Animation.

However, the contradiction of ICAIC’s exercising a central control over maverick innovations is obvious since it controlled the production criteria and the right to decide what type of film was convenient to make and what was not.

An official competition of unpublished scripts for feature films is held by International Festival of New Latin American Cinema for authors from Latin America and the Caribbean for original scripts (no literary adaptations), written in Spanish and with Latin American themes. Scripts whose production rights have been transferred to third parties are not eligible. [v]

ICAIC also supports the Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre de Humberto Solas[vi] for low budget films and Festival Internacional de Documentales “Santiago Alvarez in Memoriam”[vii].

Muestra Joven is a festival for Cuban youth with premiere fiction, doc and animated films. It has collateral activities of debates about the films in the festivals, master classes, meetings about contemporary issues and themes in the audiovisual community, workshps and onferences, poster exhibitions and homages.

In April 2014 the Mediateque of Women Directors, based in Cuba formally affiliated with The Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival in creating the the Caribbean Film Market. The project is also in association with The Foundation for Global Democracy and Development of the Dominican Republic, The Association for The Development of Art and Commercial Cinematography of Guadalupe, The Foundation for New Latinamerican Cinema, The Regional and International Film Festival of Guadalupe and the Mediateque of Women Directors.

Education

ICAIC was in charge of training and promotion of talented young people not only in cinema but in other arts like music for which it created the Experimental Sound Group.

ISA

Most of the new independent filmmakers are young graduates of the Higher Art Institute’s (ISA) Faculty of Audiovisual Communication Media and its provincial affiliates. The University of Arts of Cuba – (ISA), Instituto Superior de Arte – was established on September 1, 1976 by the Cuban government as a school for the arts. Its original structure had three schools: Music, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts. At present the ISA has four schools, the previous three and the one for Arts and Audiovisual Communication Media. There are also four teaching schools in the provinces, one in Camagüey, two in Holguín and one in Santiago de Cuba. ISA offers pre-degree and post-degree courses, as well as a wide spectrum of brief and extension courses, including preparation for Cuban and foreign professors for a degree of Doctor on Sciences in Art. Predegree education has increased to five careers: Music, Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Dance Arts and Arts and Audiovisual Communication Media. In 1996, the ISA established the National Award of Artistic Teaching, conceived for recognizing a lifework devoted to arts teaching.

EICTV

EICTV, the International School of Cinema and Television was founded December 15, 1986 at the Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana with the support of then-President Fidel Castro on the initiative of Latin American cultural figures such as Argentine director, “Father of the New Latin American Cinema”, Fernando Birri, Julio and Gabo and Colombian Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez who donated his prize money to establish the school.. It is located in San Antonio de los Baños near Havana, on land donated by the Cuban government.

Hundreds of young students from all over Latin America have studied direction, script, photography and edition. Since its founding , 810 students have graduated and it has become one of the region’s most important and well-grounded cultural projects.

Students pay 15,000 euros (about $19,700) to attend for the full three-year program. The fee includes food, lodging and equipment. Tuition income accounts for just 15 percent of the school’s budget. Funding comes from international agencies such as Ibermedia; countries including Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Panama; and regional organizations like the ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American nations.

For the past eight years, Nuevas Miradas, organized by the EICTV Production Department has held its presentations at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema for bringing new projects to the attention of international professionals.

Also in the late 1980s, Cuba created the Third World Film School to train students from various third world countries in the art of filmmaking.

Film Funding

ICAIC has been the only body to fund films. How the selection of what films would receive funding has never been a public matter.

There are no instruments for private companies or individuals to contribute to film production in Cuba yet. There are however, international funds that may help finance films, such as Hubert Bals Fund from The Netherlands, World Cinema Fund from Germany, Fonds Sud from France, the Norwegian Fund, Sor Fond, ACP, etc. The best actively kept lists are found in OCAL[viii] and Online Film Financing [ix].

Coproduction with Cuba

As early as 1948 coproductions were common between Cuba and México. During the 70s and 80s Russian coproductions included Mikhail Kalatozov’s classic 1964 film “I Am Cuba” (“Soy Cuba”). Spain has played a role in coproducing Latin American and Cuban films since the 30s but in the 1990s it began to invest more heavily. In 1997 Ibermedia was created for the purpose of promoting coproduction between Spain and Latin American countries. Cuba is one of the fourteen countries involved in this organization.

In addition, Cuba has bilateral coproduction treaties with Italy, Canada, Venezuela, Spain and Chile. So far nothing has resulted from the Chile accord.

Two examples of Cuban coproduced films are Humberto Solás’ 1982 film Cecilia(Cuba – Spain) and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío’s 1992 Academy Award-nominated “Strawberry and Chocolate” (“Fresa y chocolate”) (Cuba – México – Spain – U.S.).

In September 2013 at San Sebastian International Film Festival’s 2nd Europe-Latin America Coproduction Forum, “The Companion”/ “El Acompañante” won the Best Project Award sponsored by Spain’s Audiovisual Producers’ Rights Management Association EGEDA and carrying a 10,000 Euros (US$13,000) cash award.

This is the third feature of Giroud after “The Silly Age” and “Omerta”. It is a coproduction of Cuba, Venezuela’s NativaPro Cinematográfica and France’s Tu Vas Voir owned by Edgard Tenembaum who produced Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries”. The film also obtained the collaboration of Programa Ibermedia and was selected for Cinemas du Monde.

Pavel Giroud is one of the most promising of young Cuban filmmakers today. “The Companion”/ “El Acompañante” is set in 1988 Havana and tells the story of the friendship which develops between Horacio Romero, a Cuban boxer who fails a drug test and a defiant patient at an AIDS center under military rule for whom Romero must serve as a warden or, in Cuban government parlance, a “companion”. Playing the role of Horacio is Yotuel Romero (Latin Grammy Award-winning and founding member of Cuban rap group Orishas). Orishas is one of the world’s most critically hailed Latin-urban artists.  The co-protagonist is Cuban actor Armando Miguel Gómez who has received international recognition for his role in the recent films “Behavior”/ “Conducta” and “Melaza”. International sales are handled by the Brazil-based international sales agency, Habanero, which, coincidently is owned by Cuban Alfredo Calvino and Brazilian Patricial Martin who handle such outstanding films as “Juan on the Dead”, Carlos Lechuga’s “Melaza”, Sebastian Cordero’s “Pescador” and Francisco Franco’s “Last Call. Habanero also sponsors distribution awards at FICG and Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte, a showcase for pictures in post-production.  All the updated information about these films, including festivals and awards is available at: www.habanerofilmsales.com.

Case Study of the Producer, Inti Hererra

Cuba’s first English language film, “Eating the Sun, a coproduction with Canada, is being produced by Inti Herrera who also is heading the new night spot of avant garde popular entertainment, La Fabrica de Arte Cubano.

Inti Herrera, formerly of 5ta Avenida Productions and I first met in 2003 through the international sales agent Alfredo Calvino whose then-company Latinofusion was selling Inti’s first fiction feature, “Viva Cuba”, a road movie of two kids traveling across Cuba in search of one’s father.

Inti graduated EICTV and worked for a long time as an independent producer of documentaries.

In 2009, when Camilo Vives, ICAIC’s head of production created the Industry Sector of the Havana Film Festival Inti became its director and managed it until 2010. In 2010 when he was still running the industry space he invited me to speak about New Media, and I spoke of Peter Broderick who was then invited to do a workshop at EICTV.

As an executive producer, Inti must raise financing from the development through the completion of film projects. Each project is of course different from the last. He and Alejandro Brugués were originally discussing working on a different sort of film, Melaza”, but put it on hold and in 2010 and 2011 he worked instead on the commercial film, “Juan of the Dead, which is the most exhibited film of Cuba.

“Juan of the Dead”, Cuba’s first truly independent movie, a zombie horror comedy was coproduced in 2011 by Spain’s La Zanfoña Producciones, where it was post-produced, and Cuba’s first independent production company Producciones de la 5ta Avenida which also produced “Personal Belongings” in 2006 and “Melaza” in 2012. The film was written and directed by Alejandro Brugués (“Personal Belongings”). It was executive produced by Inti Herrera, Claudia Calviño and Gervasio Iglesias.

The film was represented for international sales by Latinofusion, a Guadalajara based company sponsored by Universidad de Guadalajara and managed by Alfredo Calvino. It was shown in more than 50 festivals worldwide, winning 10 audience awards and the Spanish Film Academy’s GOYA Award of the for best Iberoamerican film. It sold to 42 territories.

“Juan of the Dead” distributors:

Argentina (Condor/ Mirada), Bolivia (Londra Films P&D), Brazil (Imovision), Canada (A-Z Films), Chile (Arcadia Films), Germany (Pandastorm Pictures), Hong Kong and Macau (Sundream Motion Pictures), Hungary (ADS Service), Italy ( Moviemax Media Group Spa), Japan (Fine Films), Latin American Pay TV (HBO Latin America), México and Central America (Canana), Netherlands (Filmfreak), Norway (Tromso International Film Festival), Puerto Rico (Wiesner), Russia and CIS territories (Cinema Prestige), Spain (Avalon), Switzerland (Ascot Elite), U.K and Ireland (Metrodome), U.S.(Theatrical Distributor Outsider Pictures, all other rights Focus World)

Today Inti is working with a new director, Alfredo Ureta on the Canadian coproduction and the first Cuban film in English. “Eating the Sun” is about a Canadian-Cuban couple who decides to live in Cuba. Before settling in they make a tour of the country and become involved in a psychological thriller. The Canadian producer is Gordon Weiske of Canwood Entertainment. They are discussing the male lead role with Kris Holden-Ried. The goal is to find new markets for this film, markets which Cuba has not targeted before.

Top 10 Films of Cuba is a selection of my own:

1. “Memorias del subdesarrollo” (“Memories of Underdevelopment”) (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968)

2. “Lucia (Humberto Solás, 1969)

3. “Vampiros en La Habana” (“Vampires in Havana”) (Juan Padrón, 1983)

4. “Soy Cuba” (“I am Cuba”) ( Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)

5. “La bella del Alhambra” (“The beauty of the Alhambra”) (Enrique Pineda Barnet, 1989)

6. “Fresa y Chocolate” (“Strawberry and Chocolate”) (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, 1993)

7. “Lista de Espera” (“The waiting list”) (Juan Carlos Tabío, 2000)

8. “Havana Suite” (“Suite Havana”) (Fernando Pérez, 2003)

9. “Juan of the Dead (Alejandro Brugués, 2011)

10. “Melaza (Carlos Lechuga, 2013)


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