Magazine article Variety

Cuba Libre? Biz Faces GROWING PAINS

Magazine article Variety

Cuba Libre? Biz Faces GROWING PAINS

Article excerpt

Since President Obama eased tensions with Cuba late last year, the film community in the island nation has been optimistic, if cautiously so, about striking new relationships with its counterpart in Hollywood, and hopeful it can reform the Cuban film industry to compete on the world stage.

"Many (American) directors have expressed - more or less privately - their interest in filming in Cuba," says Luis Barrera, senior advisor at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), the government-run film commission that, in essence, acts as the sole movie studio in Cuba. "On the other hand, Cuba has its own tradition in cinema, and is among the leading lights in the Caribbean region," he adds. Helmers like Alejandro Brugues ("Juan of the Dead") and Daniel Diaz Torres ("La Película de Ana") are some filmmakers who've gained international recognition.

Barrera notes that it's also important for Cuba to build an efficient and competitive infrastructure, with professional crews experienced not only in local productions, but in co-productions with Europeans. "This is one aspect we can quickly work on, as well as looking toward investments and joint ventures, including tax rebates and other incentives to attract U.S. filmmakers," Barrera says.

Local filmmakers, though, worry that ICAIC will prioritize the needs of foreign productions that want to film in Cuba over the needs to develop those of the nation's own creative talent.

"The first step should be to see how Cuban cinema can flourish from this relationship on its home turf, and hopefully not get swallowed up by the great machinery of the U.S. film industry," says Carlos Quíntela, whose second film, "The Project of the Century," about three generations of a Cuban family living near an abandoned Soviet nuclear power station, won a Tiger award at Rotterdam after being acquired for international sales by Berlin-based M-Appeal.

Filmmaker Yassel Iglesias, who made 2012 doc "The Chosen Island," about Jewish emigres in Cuba, which ultimately brought him to the U.S., sees progress coming only after regulations ease. "I think that (reform) will definitely help the production of Cuban films," says Iglesias, "but I can't use the phrase 'Cuban film industry' yet, because so far there have been no reforms or laws that recognize new independent companies, and the only 'industry' is ICAIC, which many Cuban filmmakers refuse to work with."

Many Cuban filmmakers have had to seek funding overseas. Quíntela, a former student at the Inti. …

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