Sunday, 6 April 2008

Cuban documentaries

Browsing YouTube I came across a few Cuban documentaries produced in the heyday of the ICAIC, Cuba's film institute. The posters for these documentaries have been much reproduced and are very familiar to any collector of Cuban film posters. As with a lot of Cuban posters it is striking how bright and colourful the poster images are in comparison to the reportage style of the documentaries. Of course, the films are black and white but they are also serious, designed to function as a tool of the revolution.

Here are three very famous Cuban films. The first, Por Primera Vez (For the First Time) deals with the revolutionary Cine Movil (Mobile Cinema), a truck with projector and screen that travelled to remote areas of Cuba and showed films in campesino communities that had no exposure to cinema. The film delights in showing the reactions of local children to the visual humour of Charlie Chaplin.

Por Primera Vez:

Santiago Alvarez' Now is a montage of images and footage of the American civil rights movement of the early 60s. It is a powerful film, set to Lena Horne's jazz classic Now. Made in 1965 it is simple and effective in its message, lacking the sophistication and subtleties of modern film making. However as simple anti-American propaganda it works well.


Alvarez's 79 Primaveras (79 Springs) is a Cuban documentary with touches of the surreal. A biography of Ho Chi Minh illustrated through montaged imagery including blooming flowers and violent footage from the Vietnam war including Vietnamese patrols under attack amid images of life during the war. It features sequences of Minh's life and funueral as well as violent torture and battle scenes. The editing style is made up of angular cuts, splicing and maniuplation that conjure up dischord and violence that isn't present in the footage. It is a brave film with no voiceover and a soviet-esq focus on juxtaposed images and editing.

79 Primaveras (extract):

And the three posters that were used to let the Cuban public know about these films are Por Primera Vez (Bachs), Now! (Rostgaard) and 79 Primaveras (Rostgaard):
Por Primera VezNow!79 Primaveras

1 comment:

Anjelina said...

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