Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Tomas Gutierrez Alea

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Tomas Gutierrez Alea

Article excerpt

* Your latest film, Strawberry and Chocolate, tells about an encounter between a homosexual intellectual and a member of the Cuban communist youth movement. Where did you get the idea of looking at the problem of homosexuality in Cuba?

- I read Senel Paz's(*) original story in manuscript. What I wanted to show in the film, and what I believe, is that the problem is broader than just homosexuality. It's the idea of tolerance and accepting other people. Basically the film is the story of a youth, David, who learns to become a man by transcending his limited vision of reality when he comes into contact with a social outcast.

* Were you surprised by the film's success in Cuba?

- I sincerely thought people would like it because it's a moving human story with a fair share of humour, and because I was satisfied with my work. But its success went beyond my expectations.

* But your film is pretty hard on life in Cuba. At the end your hero, Diego, even decides to emigrate. Weren't you afraid of being labeled an "enemy of the revolution"?

- To my mind a society can go forward only if it is aware of its errors and failings. Criticism is an ideal revolutionary weapon.

* How do you see your work as a film-maker in a nationalized system compared to your colleagues in Europe and the United States?

- Each system has its pros and cons. But I would like to say that Cuban cinema isn't a typical "state-run" cinema. It is true that to make films you have to go through the government-controlled Cuban Film Institute. But the Institute is run by open-minded creators, not by civil servants. It is not like some other bureaucracies with which it is more difficult to work. Here the state monopoly on production may tend to limit creative development, while under a capitalist regime there is a risk that producers who are only interested in profits will go for sex-and-violence formula movies. On the other hand, it is true that the absence of a monopoly encourages the existence of independent directors and producers.

* Is there a crisis in the Latin American cinema?

- Latin American cinema is in a state of permanent crisis because it is not in control of distribution. Our films are seen less in Latin America than in Europe and even in the United States!

Cuba is an exception to the rule with its Latin American Film Festival and our San Antonio de los Banos' film school, which takes students from all over Latin America. In addition, the Cuban revolution has always insisted on the importance of close cultural ties with the rest of the continent. …

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