Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

The first edition of this book was published in 1985 and covered the history of Cuban cinema up to 1979. This new edition, which brings the story current to the turn of the twenty-first century, is separated not just by the passage of years but by a change of historical epoch. When the book first appeared, the Cold War was still in full swing, neoliberalism only in its first phase...

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Coppola on Cuban Film

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pp. xv-xvii

On December 2, 1975, Robert Scheer interviewed Francis Ford Coppola in San Francisco about the filmmaker’s recent trip to Cuba. Were you able to see Cuban films down there? Any films we wanted to see. We would just sit in the screening room and they would run anything we wanted. What did you...

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Introduction: Forty Years On

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pp. 1-22

Early in 1998, an extraordinary situation unfolded in Havana that would demonstrate that almost forty years since the Revolution of 1959 and the creation of a state film institute, Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (icaic; Cuban Institute of Film Art and Industry), cinema in Cuba continued to be a highly charged political issue. Fidel Castro, in the...

PART I: Before the Revolution: Cinema at the Margins

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ONE: For the First Time

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pp. 25-37

The screen comes to life. Three men wearing the working clothes of a tropical country are grouped around the front of a truck with its hood open. One of them stands more or less facing the camera, another is sitting on the fender, and the third is working on the engine. An unseen questioner is asking them about their job, and, as they speak, the picture cuts to the interior...

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TWO: Back to the Beginning

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pp. 38-55

In 1972, a full-length documentary appeared ironically titled Viva la República (Long live the republic), directed by Pastor Vega. A historical compilation juxtaposing a variety of old newsreels, photographs, political cartoons, and similar visual material, and narrated with a wit that makes the most of the very crudeness and limitations of such stuff, the film elegantly traces the history of the republic set up under U.S. tutelage at the beginning of...

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THREE: The Nineteenth-Century Heritage

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pp. 56-67

José Casasús and Enrique Díaz Quesada were not the only Cuban film pioneers who made commissioned publicity films. In 1906, Manuel Martínez Illas made a picture about sugar manufacture called Cine y azúcar (Cinema and sugar). It was sponsored by the Manatí Sugar Company, which was in the process of trying to raise further capital. Now sugar was Cuba’s...

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FOUR: Melodrama and White Horses

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pp. 68-89

Two Cuban investigators of early cinema in their country, Rolando Díaz Rodríguez and Lázaro Buria Pérez, have divided the years 1897–1922 into three periods. The first, 1897–1905, is the period of cinema as simple spectacle in as yet unequal competition with theater. The second, 1906– 18, is the stage of the consolidation of cinema both as a spectacle and as a business, but...

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FIVE: Amateurs and Militants

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pp. 90-114

“Perhaps more interesting than the professional cinema,” according to an article titled “The Cinema in Cuba” in the North American magazine Film Culture in 1956, “is the experimental cinema in 16 mm and the intense action of the cine-clubs.”1 The author of this article, Néstor Almendros, the son of an...

PART II: The Revolution Takes Power: A Cinema of Euphoria

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SIX: The Coming of Socialism

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pp. 117-143

The victory of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, brought about a flurry of documentary filmmaking. Two commercial producers brought out feature-length compilation films, De la sierra hasta hoy (From the Sierra to today) and De la tiranía a la libertad (From tyranny to liberty), the latter an expanded version of a film first seen the previous year under the title Sierra...

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SEVEN: The First Feature Films

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pp. 144-162

It was in 1960 that icaic made its first feature films. The first to be shown, at the end of the year, though it was completed second, was Historias de la Revolución (Stories of the Revolution), a film made up of three episodes directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Originally, it was intended to comprise...

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EIGHT: Beyond Neorealism

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pp. 163-183

In an interview he gave to a Peruvian film magazine toward the end of the 1960s, Julio García Espinosa spoke of the way the rapid development of the Revolution took Cuban filmmakers beyond neorealism. Even those who had made El Megano, he said, who had been imprisoned and gone to work in clandestinity for the overthrow of Batista’s government, had believed that...

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NINE: The Documentary in the Revolution

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pp. 184-217

The historical moment of the Cuban Revolution was also, by coincidence, a period of aesthetic revolution in documentary cinema.Within the space of a few years, 16 mm, previously regarded as a substandard format like 8 mm or half-inch video today, was relaunched. Technical developments, inspired by the needs of space technology as well as television, stimulated...

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TEN: The Revolution in the Documentary

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pp. 218-246

We have seen how it came about that a generation of filmmakers emerged in Cuba in the early 1960s who were not only committed to the Revolution but also to the task of revolutionizing cinema. The very naïveté of the film culture they inherited became an elemental factor in their development. Through the concientización that the encounter with the popular audience brought...

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ELEVEN: The Current of Experimentalism

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pp. 247-272

A revolutionary cinema committed to the demystification of its medium is sooner or later bound to confront the question of the image of the hero and the revolutionary leader in all its aspects. The first to explore the image of heroism was García Espinosa in El joven rebelde, which created an anti-militarist paradigm. The idea of heroism was to be actively deconstructed...

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TWELVE: Four Films

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pp. 273-304

Of the fiction films released by icaic in 1968, the most closely related to the figure of Che Guevara himself is Jorge Fraga’s La odisea de General José. Premiered at the end of February, it was one of the first of a group of films around the theme of the hundred-years’ struggle for independence...

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THIRTEEN: Imperfect Cinema and the Seventies

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pp. 305-331

It was at the end of the 1960s, arising from the experience of Juan Quin Quin, that García Espinosa wrote the essay Por un cine imperfecto (For an Imperfect Cinema), a polemical reflection on the whole practice of revolutionary film, which is not only a powerful credo for Cuban cinema but one of the...

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FOURTEEN: One Way or Another

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pp. 332-352

In 1974, Julio García Espinosa got involved with the Italian film critic Guido Aristarco in an altercation about what was going on in Cuban cinema. The occasion was the Rencontres Internationales pour un Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal, a gathering of some seventy-five radical filmmakers from all over the world, together with critics, distributors, and political activists given to using...

PART III: New Generations: A Cinema of Readjustment

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FIFTEEN: Reconnecting

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pp. 355-394

Despite the alteration of the political climate in Cuba in the 1970s, the lessons of the Revolution’s first decade remained vigilant. According to Ambrosio Fornet, literary historian turned screenwriter: At the triumph of the Revolution, the first thing we found was that for the first time we had the means of disseminating our culture, that is to say, we had publishers, a Film Institute, centers of investigation—but the question was,...

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SIXTEEN: Return of the Popular

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pp. 395-443

Shortly before becoming Alfredo Guevara’s successor as head of icaic, Julio García Espinosa returned to the concept of imperfect cinema: Just as we have to learn things even from the metropolis which is so much ahead of the underdeveloped countries, so we have to learn from their cinema too. But just as in our social aspirations we’re looking for better means of human self-fulfillment, so we have to search for the appropriate cinema...

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SEVENTEEN: Wonderland

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pp. 444-496

Perestroika began to destabilize the Cuban economy well before Castro declared the “Special Period in Times of Peace” in 1990, the year before the collapse of Soviet communism. In 1987, as perestroika brought unintended disruption in the USSR, Cuban imports from the Soviet Union, which had grown steadily for nearly three decades, suddenly went into reverse, and economic...

Notes

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pp. 497-518

Distribution Information

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pp. 519-520

Index of Film Titles

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pp. 521-528

Index of Names

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pp. 529-538

About the Author

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pp. 539-539