Low-budget cinema, …good cinema

February 27, 2012 00:49 0 comments

10 years after its creation, a unique event is given new life, with the same principles that inspired its creator, the late Cuban director Humberto Solas.


Brenda Ferrer, Claudio Pelaez, Yobán Pelayo y Manuel Valdés*


It is the Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre “Humberto Solás”. This year’s festival held from the 17th to 22nd April, will take place at its usual location in Gibara, Cuba, a town in the eastern province of Holguin.

The event, now with a new director Lester Hamlet, returns as a spectacle of the people, and will be sure to honour the intentions of its late founder. The festival adopted his name in 2009 as homage to this outstanding film-maker, director of memorable films like “Lucía” and “Un hombre de éxito”.

After a one year absence - in 2011 the festival was held in Regla, Habana - the festival now returns to its original location, Gibara.

“The people of Gibara, feel possessive towards the event, which in turn, as an annual cultural and cinematographic festival, owes a lot to the community of Gibara,” former president of the competition Sergio Benvenuto said on the Cubarte website.

“This year, more power will be given to Gibara. The jury will be made up of film fans from Gibara, as well as the official judges, who will present awards in the already established categories, including full length or short fiction, and documentaries, among others” said Lester Hamlet in an exclusive interview for Prensa Latina.

“The main tribute will be to the village of Gibara, but there will also be a dedication to women, in their creative phase. Our two guests of honour are the actress Isabel Santos, considered one of the best actresses in Cuban cinema and Sandra Ramos, an extremely important artist, who presented us with the image for this years even”’.

Good and cheap

A decade after its foundation, the festival continues to defend low budget cinema as an alternative for the democratisation of film-making. Defending the search for a spiritual environment, where people with similar ethical principles can gather together.

According to Lester Hamlet, this type of cinema “is a film-making adventure that has the integration of resources as principles rather than limitations, without taking away from the austerity in the scene or the plot.”

“To clarify some misunderstandings. Low budget cinema doesn’t mean cinema lacking in ideas or artistic quality. It is cinema with a limited budget that is produced in less developed countries as well as at the heart of societies governing at a higher cultural-economic level, whether this be within official production programmes or through an alternative or independent cinema” Humberto Solas said  in the Manifesto del Cine Pobre.

The alternative films in the competition always include samples from countries with a long-standing film-making tradition, like the USA, Germany, India or France. As well as films from countries with emerging industries like Ecuador, Chad, Macedonia, Mauritania and Lebanon, among others.

“A work of art doesn’t depend on the money you invest in it; we prefer to make another type of cinema, with budgets more appropriate to our economic and social reality, where we can tell good stories that then become works of art. This is a cinema that positions man at the centre of the story and the film”,  Lester Hamlet commented at the press conference.

“The number of staff on a film is always between 80 and 100 people. A restructure is needed in low budget film, to ensure that all members of staff can carry out different tasks. It is like a whirlpool, where everybody is involved in the project, everybody believes in it and stands up for it morally and ethically” added Lester Hamlet, who has himself directed the films “Casa Vieja” and “Fábula”.

By making the most of, and encouraging cost reduction access could be allowed to social groups and communities that have not traditionally had contact with film-making, while also giving durability to emerging national cinema.

To achieve this, we must break down the wall of the film distribution, which is dominated by a handful of transnationals who restrict public access to the works of their compatriots.

In 2006, Humberto Solas warned that the “intention of globalisation emphasises exclusion on this planet. It definitely increases the danger of implanting a singular model of thinking, sacrificing diversity and legitimacy of the rest of the national and cultural identities along the way”, and that is the reason why he stressed the need to create a space to promote what he called ‘invisible’ cinema.

The production process is becoming increasingly interesting due to the advances in digital technology that, by reducing the costs of production, have contributed to the democratisation of cinema.

The subject of digital production has filled discussion forums and communicative spaces promoted by the festival with analysis of how to best take advantage of these new possibilities in order to boost the potential of cinema on the edge.

This has led to the conclusion that the construction of “legitimate, active and motivating’ cinema, that is “highly aesthetic and ethical, modest in its production, devoid of all cultural elitism and in favour of an interaction with a diverse audience” should be encouraged- according to Sergio Benvenuto, who also wrote in his article “Tiempo de Cine Pobre” that  “Solas built his Festival just like he made films, creating a production on a casual but sometimes very particular stage, that would be accompanied by an important social-communal principle that attracts not only film fans, but also artists and intellectuals”.

* Students at the Facultad de Comunicación at the University of Habana

(Translated by Forrai Csilla –  Email: forrai.csilla@googlemail.com)

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