Culture, Globe, Music, United Kingdom

Made in Cuba: films to change the world

For thirteen days London will host a festival showcasing films rarely  shown in the UK. It will take place between 9 and 22 March: shorts, feature films, documentaries and Q&A sessions with Cuban film specialists will celebrate film production from the Caribbean island.


The festival is called “Screen Cuba: films to change the world” and brings to the UK capital for the first time an exceptional line-up of films by some of Cuba’s most revered directors, alongside newly emerging talent.

For two weeks, there will be a diverse celebration of Cuban cinema since 1959 – showcasing award-winning and iconic features, documentaries, animation, and shorts. The programme includes films, Q&As with film specialists and a Gala Reception on 13 March. The Festival also aims to help address the scarce resources and distribution avenues open to filmmakers on the island due to the US blockade, by raising funds for projects underway at the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) such as the restoration of classic films from their archives in Havana.

Two film specialists from Cuba will participate in Q&A sessions, and other aspects of the Festival programme: Tania Delgado Fernandez, director of the International Festival of New Latin America Cinema, and Gladys Gonzalez, of the Cuban Film Institute, ICAIC, in Havana.

The Festival opens with the classic comedy The death of a bureaucrat” (1966) by the late Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, often cited as Cuba’s father of cinema. The film satirises how red tape in the revolution affects the everyday lives of its people.

It is accompanied by NOW!”, a documentary short about the civil rights movement in the US. This short was directed by Santiago Alvarez, one of the most influential documentary filmmakers the Cuban revolution produced.

A highlight is the recently restored “One way or another” (1974).

It is an outstanding example of politically engaged cinema by Sara Gómez, the first black female director of a feature film at ICAIC. Gómez incorporates music, documentary and newsreels to address themes of racial identity, class, and gender with passion and energy. Another film by Gomez, who died when she was just 31 is “…And we’ve got flavor” (1967). This documentary presents the origins of Afro Cuban music through a skilful mix of images, rhythms and sound.

On the other hand, there is the historical drama “The Life of Martí: The Eye of the Canary”,  an engaging account of the little-known early years of José Martí, the great nineteenth-century Cuban poet, father of Cuban independence and national hero. It is by one of Cuba’s most highly respected contemporary directors, Fernando Pérez.

Another film by Pérez will be premiered in the UK (2022) is the first co-production of the ICAIC with independent film collectives. This award-winning film, under the general direction of Fernando Pérez, presents six self-contained fictional shorts set during the pandemic.

Each has its own young director, four of them women, providing an opportunity to view the work of contemporary women directors. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea worked alongside Juan Carlos Tabío to create the Oscar nominated and multiple award-winning “Strawberry and chocolate” (1993).

It will be screened on the night of the Festival’s Gala Reception. Exploring tolerance, inclusion, and homophobia with great humour, it was hugely popular in Cuba 30 years ago and affirmed an important right – that everyone should be able to participate equally in society and in the revolution.

Violence against women and girls is the focus of Supergal” (2022), Cuba’s first ever animation superhero feature.

Directed by Ernesto Piña, it tells the story of Yudeisi, a young chemistry teacher who becomes a superhero able to transform violent men by clarifying their thoughts. The animation format makes it fun and funny.

Two further multiple award-winning films, “The brothers” (2020) and “Yuli: The Carlos Acosta story” (2018), are not by Cuban directors but place Cuban music and dance at the very heart of their productions.

The organisers of the festival are Screen Cuba, a project of Music Fund for Cuba UK charity and Cuba Solidarity Campaign supported by the Cuban Embassy in the UK and in collaboration with the Cuban Film Institute, ICAIC.

Dates: 9-22 March 2024. Venue: The Garden Cinema, 39-41 Parker Street, London WC2 5PQ. For tickets click here. More information: Screen Cuba. PL

(Photos and information: Screen Cuba)

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