Thursday, March 8, 2012

In case you missed it... Cuban films, Omni en La Yuma, "el bloqueo" @ 50, & more verbal violence

There's has been a lot going on over the past few weeks in and around Cuba (and there's an explosion of Cuba-related activity in NYC in April).

I've been wanting to blog about it all, but so much news and so little time...

Here I'll just try to give a bit of info on the news and events that I've been following, as well as the one I hope to be a part of...

At the Movies
Recently, I was able to take in two fabulous films about Cuba: The animated and Oscar-nominated homage to 50s-era Cuban music and to "el maestro" pianist Bebo Valdes, "Chico and Rita."  This film  is the product of collaboration between the Spanish writer/director Fernando Trueba and illustrator Javier Mariscal, along with scores of their friends in Cuba, New York, and elsewhere.  Check out the film trailer above.

I'm also adding here a few photos I took during the film's opening in New York a few weeks ago, where I was lucky enough to get Mariscal to sign my copy of the graphic novel version of the film (that's the two of us at the book signing at Angelica Theaters in Tribeca after the film.

There's also the amazing documentary, "Unfinished Spaces," by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray (pictured below with the one-of-a-kind Cuban architect Ricardo Porro) about the still-photogenic, long-suffering, and recently "re-discovered" Cuban National Schools of Art.

I hear that both films have been greeted with emotional, sold-out, standing-room-only audiences in Miami AND Havana.  That's not an easy feat!  If either film is showing anywhere near you, do NOT miss it.

Then there are a host of great Cuban films scheduled to be shown at the Havana Film Festival (in New York) and at the Tribeca Film Festival (both taking place in April).  The HFFNY opens with Ian Padrón's "Habanastation" on April 7 and closes with Alejandro Brugués's "Juan of the Dead" on April 20.  At Tribeca, I'm gonna be sure to make it to these: Hard Rock Havana, Lost Son of Havana, and Chevolution.

Finally, "Seven Days in Havana," the seven-part, multi-director homage to Cuba's capital city now has a sleek new website with loads of film clips and interviews and announces that the film will be in wide-release in the U.S. and elsewhere during 2012.

As I have mentioned here before, the first short in the film was written by Leonardo Padura (who wrote two of the other short screenplays with his wife Lucía Coll) and directed by Benecio del Toro.  It is entitled EL YUMA!

Here is the synopsis of "El Yuma" at the film's website - I swear that I had nothing to do with the title or the name of the lead character, Teddy, an American tourist in Havana.

"Teddy Atkins is a young American tourist who travels to Havana for the first time. His driver, a middle-aged Cuban cabbie who has a university degree in engineering, will offer him a tour of the city that is anything but traditional."

The clip below is a tour of some of Havana's many, legendary 1950's style movie theaters led by none other than Cuban novelist and sometime screenwriter Leonardo Padura.

Hip Hop Hippies from Havana

Three members of the genre-busting, multi-talented group of performance artists that call themselves "Omni Zona Franca" arrive today (Thursday, March 8) to Miami to begin a whirlwind tour of the U.S. with stops planned (so far) in Chicago (March 10-20), New YorkConnecticut (March 20-April 1), Washington, D.C. (April 2-9), New Orleans (April 10-30), and Miami (May1-June1).

It seems that one member of the three-man touring crew, David (The Freehoper), has already been in residence in New Orleans for some time.

His two partners in crime (pictured here), Amaury (The Republic Meditator) and Luis Eligio (The Diplomat) will be joining him to make the tour.

Think Public Enemy with a mix of Yoko Ono and Basquiat.

    The 50th anniversary of the U.S. embargo against Cuba passed recently without much fanfare.  However, Global Voices did us all a service by asking two very different Cuban bloggers to reflect on the "tried and true" or "tired and tragic" policy 50 years on.  First was this reflection from Alberto de la Cruz from the Babalu Blog in Miami.  And then an assessment from blogger Elaine Diaz in Havana.

    Official Cuban airwaves and cyberspace saw some new (and much of the same old) attacks against independent Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Miriam Celaya (both good friends of mine) at the oficialistisima site CubaDebate.  Also see the responses from Yoani and Miriam.  My feeling is that if the site wants to call itself Cuba DEBATE, then whenever anyone is criticized or attacked there, they should give the "attackee" the space to respond. But it seems that this Mesa Redonda, only has one side.

    An unrelated but quite interesting and heated back and forth took place between the writers and bloggers Eduardo del Llano and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.  Since I much like and respect both of these very talented and valiant artists, it was unfortunate to see words like "pederast" thrown around with such abandon - but artists will be bold - and as they (well actually Bono) say: 

    "Every artist is a cannibal. Every poet is a thief. 
    All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief."

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