Yes to Regulation, No to Control / 14ymedio, Henry Constantin
Posted on January 25, 2015
14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Camagüey, 21 January 2015 — I interviewed
Fernando Pérez in a small room of that little movie theater is still
left in Camagüey one day after the premiere of his latest production, La
pared de las palabras (Wall of Words), a stellar film about which I
didn’t ask a single question. I decided not to interview the film
director and instead question the intellectual, the public figure who
contributes more than just his works to the daily life of Cuba.
Fernando Pérez deserves, and can handle, any difficult question one can
think of. His films, never boring and with noteworthy depth, reveal a
certain level of social nonconformity and demonstrate high
cinematographic and intellectual capacities that transform the slim and
modest man into a very serious subject. Despite being thoroughly
deserving, the cinematographer isn’t inflated with the airs of a great
artist or a prominent public figure and treats with kindness both his
public and the press.
I had to ask him a complicated or daring question in the scarce minutes
of my interview because there was little I hadn’t heard following his
eloquent speeches before the camagüeyano audiences that had welcomed him
in various places throughout the day.
Constantin. Following the prohibition of privately owned movie theaters,
do you, cinematographers, still include in your proposals for the Cinema
Law the independent distribution and showing of films?
Peréz. We’ve advanced a proposal that, of course, includes the
distribution, showing, and preservation of our patrimony.
Regarding showings, there are very few venues that meet the requirements
of a real movie theater. There are generations of youths that don’t know
what a real movie theater is, even in a moment where the ways of showing
and distributing films have diversified, for better or for worse.
Rescuing the quality of movie theaters is fundamental. I can watch a
movie in a smaller screen, on a laptop even, I don’t oppose that, but
its true place is in a movie theater, not because it’s dark or because
it is projected on a larger screen, it’s because of the energy generated
from watching it alongside a live audience. It’s as if you were living
within another movie altogether. Our movie theaters have either lost
their intended purpose at the expense of other varied activities or, due
to decay, have ceased to operate completely.
“Personal initiative would generate better results than having to wait
for centralized decisions to be passed down.”
On the other hand, distribution is still centralized within The Cuban
Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). We need to debate
an editorial policy that is concrete and safe because there are national
works – and I’m not talking about the international ones – that are not
shown due to an editorial policy that is unclear. That needs to be
regulated as well; it can’t be subjected to circumstantial or temporary
Q. Does your proposed Cinema Law conceive the ICAIC as the sole entity
charged with distributing and showing films in Cuba?
A. Not exactly, although we don’t have all the answers, but distributing
and showing is an extensive process that depends on a financial
framework that we neither manage nor will. But, we are considering and
analyzing the possibility of a breakup, a decentralization of many of
these activities, where independent initiatives, regulated but not
controlled, can generate improvements and also experience a more dynamic
I think that beyond Cuba’s audiovisual industry, having a centralized
pyramidal social structure has caused many aspects of our reality to be
plagued by processes that delay, that don’t find solutions, that aren’t
dynamic, and that are bureaucratized because they depend on centralized
decisions that cannot respond to everything. More freedom to operate and
act would facilitate personal initiative, and personal initiative would
generate better results than having to wait for centralized decisions to
be passed down.
This structural relaxation has to somehow be envisioned as part of the
system we would like to have. I can’t give you concrete solutions
because we are, in fact, debating. We don’t want them to come only from
us; we want to explore them with other regulatory entities in our
country. Not everything will be feasible immediately.
We feel like that policy is not yet outlined, or like we don’t know
where it’s going, or that it’s too centralized, that it starts on a
routinely straight line that is very difficult to divert.
“Maybe Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real
performance, none at all.”
Q. From what I’ve seen within your work, you strike me as a person who
believes that art can serve to change the world you live in. How do you
see the relationship between art and politics?
A. Art needs to relate and mingle with life and also have its own
discourse within that relationship, holding the person at the center of
it all. While politics delves into the general, art targets the
particular. Politics can serve art, by always upholding the freedom of
expression that art needs, and art can serve politics, by rendering its
reality more complex without becoming propaganda. If art becomes
political propaganda, its reach becomes limited.
Q. I asked you that question because I was interested in knowing your
opinion regarding Tania Bruguera’s performance and all that occurred
A. Tania Bruguera’s situation has been very, very, very complicated. I
think that it is possible that at some point an open microphone can be
placed on Revolution Square. What happened was that Tania proposed it at
a time when she knew it wasn’t possible. For a performance to have a
deliberate result, it needs to account for its possible reach. Maybe
Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real performance,
none at all. So, the performance was the whole process, the waves of
detentions, censorship… it wasn’t the microphone for people to speak
through. That will happen someday, but not now.
Translated by Fernando Fornaris
Source: Yes to Regulation, No to Control / 14ymedio, Henry Constantin |
Translating Cuba –