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Cuba: Youth Film Festival Marked by Controversy

Known until 2011 as the Muestra de Jóvenes Realizadores [Festival of Young Filmmakers], the 11th Muestra Joven del audiovisual cubano [Youth Festival of Cuban Audiovisuals] took place this year from the 3rd to the 8th of April. The festival was marked by poor media coverage and the resignation of its coordinator, director Fernando Pérez.

In “La Muestra”‘s opening speech, Fernando Pérez mentioned the main defining features of this year's festival: the deeply journalistic feel of the presented documentaries; the great presence of photographic directors; the (not always successful) attempts and searches in the fictonal material; and the absence of experimentation in the few animation works submitted.

Eighty-six films were selected from more than 200 submitted, divided into fiction, documentaries and animation. The winners of the three respective categories were: “Camionero” (Sebastián Miló), a tale of intense rawness that addresses violence in a boarding school; “De agua dulce” (Damián Saínz), which according to the website Cubacine ‘poetically relates the turbulence of a contaminated river water to the dark past of a man who bears witness to his actions'; and “Uvero” (Arian Enrique Pernas), which ‘invokes a disappeared community during a trip where places, characters and situations come to life’ (Cubacine). The prize for risk-taking and artistic passion went to “La piscina” (Carlos Machado), a long yet daring film that relies on sound and photography for much of its dramatic effect.

According to Fernando Pérez, his resignation was the result of the ICAIC's [Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry] refusal to show the documentary “Despertar” (Fernando Figueredo y Anthony Bubaire). The renowned filmmaker stated that the film was not good in artistic terms, but that it should be included precisely for that reason- to encourage debate on audiovisual production.

The documentary in question deals with the life of rapper Raudel Collazo (S4drón Patriota), who in his songs regularly criticizes social reality in Cuba and who has been censored in his country. A similar situation came about in 2010 with the film “Revolution” (Maykell Pedrero), based on the popular hip hop duo Los Aldeanos.

Fernando Pérez's resignation shocked many in Cuban film circles. It led to an exchange of emails, in which mostly young filmmakers expressed sadness because of the absence at “La Muestra” of a man who is considered by some to be the best living Cuban director, and they called for a reflection and rejection of the reasons behind his departure. Many of these emails can be read on the audiovisual critic Juan Antonio García Borrero's blog, Cine cubano, la pupila insomne.

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