In Havana

in 44th International Festival of the New Latinoamerican Cinema, Havana, Cuba

by Sergio Moreira

The International Festival of New Latin American Cinema took place between December 8th and 17th, 2023 in Havana, Cuba.

Since its inaugural 1979 edition, this festival has been dedicated to curating a great sample, year after year, of Latin America’s cinematographic reality. According to its organizers, the Festival continued what started at the festivals of Viña del Mar, Mérida, and Caracas. In those years, cinematic culture drew inspiration from the revolutions of the time, generating a revolution on screen, with firmly established genres: Cinema Novo in Brazil, Third Cinema in Argentina, and similar movements in Cuba , Chile, Mexico and Uruguay.

Following that spirit born 44 years ago, the festival welcomed us with doors open. The Fipresci Jury, of which I was part this year, was originally to have three members from two continents: Rafael Grillo (Cuba) and Sergio Moreira (Uruguay) from the Americas, and Carlo Gentile from Italy, representing Europe. Unfortunately, Gentile had an accident and was replaced by Mario Naito, also from Cuba. Coincidentally, this brought three presidents of local film press associations to come together. (Naito and myself are former presidents, while Grillo is the current president of the Cuban film critics association.)

During the course of the festival week, we were able to see a variety of films, including a lot of Cuban cinema, in a plan that included all films in competition, plus one more per day, to be able to appreciate cinematography that does not usually reach our countries.

One of the great advantages of this festival is the camaraderie that develops between the guests, the juries, and the organizers, by sharing the same hotel, events, and outings. Thus, to this day, a friendship has been forged among the critics gathered by Fipresci, and even with members of the other juries.

Among the most notable films are the winner of the Fipresci Prize, El viento que arrasa (A Ravaging Wind, co-production between Argentina and Uruguay), the also Argentine El caso Monroy (The Monroy Case) and El juicio (The Trial), Felipe Galvéz’s work Los colonos (The Settlers), which arrived from Chile , the Cuban film La mujer salvaje (Wild Woman), the Mexican films Tótem and Perdidos en la noche (Lost in the Night), the Colombian film El otro hijo (The Other Son) and the Brazilian film Estranho Caminho (A Strange Path). But in addition to these, there were several other films that we have not seen, but that we do not doubt also have great artistic value.

Special mention goes to the tribute carried out to the 30 years of Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry & Chocolate), one of the cinematographic milestones for LGTB+ culture and a calling card for New Cuban Cinema, where the figures of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Titón) and Juan Carlos Tabío showed us the benefits of cinema made on the island.

This festival is a nice opportunity for every film buff; everything I had heard about it in the past, I have now had the honour of being able to see first-hand. Both the pleasure of being in a country that has made great contributions to cinema, from its legendary film school in San Antonio de los Baños (which turned 37 in December), and to general culture, something that was greatly felt in the opening and closing ceremonies from a musical point of view.

Sergio Moreira
Edited by José Teodoro