Havana Film Festival will be screening four American films this year

Posted: 30-Nov-15 18:45

The President of Cuba's biggest film festival (Festival Internacional de Nuevo Cine de La Habana), Ivan Giroud, recently revealed that for the festival's 2015 edition the organising committee had received more participation requests from American filmmakers than the volume they could support. Following the appeasement in the political environment between the island and the United States, many professionals in the film industry are expressing their interest in targeting Cuban audiences.

Havana Film Festival will be screening four American films this year

Four American films will be screened during the 37th edition of the Havana Film Festival, to be held in Cuba's capital for a period of 10 days this December, kicking off in just two days. The presence of remarkable Hollywood icons like Ethan Hawke and Tim Robbins is also confirmed.

Bob Yari's "Papa", PJ Letofsky's "Tarkovsky: Time Within Time", Alex Mallis' "La Noche buena", and Alison Klayman's "The 100 Years Show" will all be screened as part of the official selection in categories like Panorama Documental (Documentary Panorama) and Otras Latitudes (Other Latitudes).

"Papa", a biopic about American writer Ernest Hemingway, is the first full-length Hollywood feature film shot in Cuba since the 1959 revolution. The film focuses on the friendship between the American author and a young journalist who worked for the Miami Herald in the 1950s. The movie was shot in some of the most famous and historical places in Havana, including the former Government Palace (now Museum of the Revolution), Havana's Grand Theatre (Gran Teatro Nacional) and Finca Vigia, Hemigway's former Cuban home and private estate.

Director Bob Yari said that it was "an absolute passion" to shoot the documentary in Cuba:

"... where the finca (farm) is where (Hemingway) lived, where his boat was, all the spots from the Morro castle to Cojimar where he fished."

Further commenting on his experience shooting in Cuba, Yari added:

"That's one of those things we were just blessed with. When Hemingway left his home, he literally left everything in it. And the Cubans have kept it pristine and the Cuban government, for the first time, allowed us interior access to shoot inside his home."

Speaking about the challenges and limitations of shooting in Cuba, he said:

"One of the things most people don't realize is Cuba actually has a thriving film community and industry. It has a terrific film school that has put out very talented people. There are German companies that have sprung up that have quite a good amount of equipment. But they don't have star vehicles down there, they don't have wagons. So, it's challenging. But with what's down there, which is getting better daily, it's very doable."

"La noche buena" is the first short length movie directed by an American filmmaker in Cuba that has been authorised since the embargo. The story, which is based on the director's personal experience, follows a young American as he tries to connect with a distant family in the island.

Carmen Herrera, a 100-year old Cuban-American artist was the inspiration behind "The 100 Years Show" and the subject Alyson Klyman drew upon for creating such a character and making the film. The main character in this short movie is the oldest working artist today and a pioneer on abstract painting.

PJ Letofsky's movie on film director Andrei Tarkovsky explores his life based on his diary and the testimonies of those who knew him best. The film had its premiere at the Sao Pablo Film Festival.

But for the Havana Film Festival the presence of Americans in the professional category is even more relevant this year, when a laboratory organised by the Sundance Institute will take place. Actor Tome Hawks, scriptwriter Scott Burns, producer Christine Vachon and Sundance and HBO executives have all been invited to take part in the talks. Officials also confirmed that event will host a round table in which Cuban and Americans will discuss the rights of filmmakers at present.

American actor Tim Robbins is also invited to the festival for his co-starring role with Benicio del Toro in the film "A perfect day", directed by Spanish filmmaker Fernando Leon.

Among other international figures that will be attending this year's event is British actress Geraldine Chaplin, who will be part of the jury on the Future Film competition. She will also be there to collect an award she won last year at the festival in the category of Best Feminine Performance.

The 37th edition of the Havana Film Festival will screen more than 440 films over its 10-day duration, the majority of which have been shot or produced in Latin America, given that since the festival's foundation in 1979, its main purpose has been to offer a platform for the visibility of films produced in the continent as a way of resistance to the power and influence of the hegemonic film industries.

This year 23 feature films, 21 opera prima films, 36 documentaries, 33 animated movies, 22 medium and short films, 24 unpublished scripts and 24 posters will be battling it out for the coveted Coral, the festival's award.


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