The Miami International Film Festival
starts next Friday and runs until March 12. As part of the festival, several Cuban films will be shown. As can be expected, there are discussions concerning the intentions and feelings of the Cuban directors whose films will be shown at the festival.
At the top of this list is Juan Carlos Cremata, who directed the award-winning film Viva Cuba
As the following article explains, Cremata's background and standing with the Cuban government is creating a little controversy, although nothing even resembling mass protests or the like.
Check it out here
, or continue reading below.Film Wars: Miami Festival is Ground Zero For Cultural Clashes Over Cuba
By Fabiola Santiago
Coming from Havana, where cultural products are often wielded like weapons of war, there's no avoiding the political fireworks that a new award-winning film generates.
This year, the heat is focused on Viva Cuba, a children's movie by Juan Carlos Cremata, an island director whose own life has been shaped and swayed by the stormy winds of politics, as it is for the protagonists of his film.
Viva Cuba is one of several movies and documentaries with unique takes on the Cuban drama showing at the Miami International Film Festival that starts Friday and runs through March 12.
It stars Malú, a sassy 10-year-old who doesn't want to leave Cuba with her mother and runs away with her best friend and neighbor, Jorgito.
The two children, whose families hate each other and are poles apart politically and socially, embark on an adventurous trek from Havana to Maisí, the easternmost corner of the island, where Malú's divorced father works as the lighthouse keeper.
Malú, who has not seen her father in years, wants to ask him not to sign the permission form for her to leave Cuba with her mother, who has married a foreigner.
''I don't want a new school, I don't want to make new friends,'' she tells Jorgito.
They pledge each other a forever friendship, a promise that will be tested throughout the trip as they flee police, hitch rides, make up stories and steal food to survive.
As humorous as it is sad, the film won the Best Children's Film award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and it was Cuba's unsuccessful entry at the Academy Awards.
The story of Malú (played by Malú Tarrau) and Jorgito (Jorgito Miló) becomes most remarkable in that their two families represent the Cuban divide.
Jorgito's parents have supported the regime and continually ''make sacrifices'' for it, enduring a life of few frills. Malú's mother is ''tired, so tired I can't take it anymore,'' as she whispers into the phone to her foreigner boyfriend. She sees leaving Cuba as the only way out of her dismal life.
Cremata's previous film, Nada+ (Nothing More), also dealt with the subject of exile. It featured Carla, a bored postal clerk who dreams of reuniting with her parents in Miami, and as she waits, intercepts and rewrites other people's mail in hopes of making their lives brighter.
''The tragedy of whether to leave or not to leave Cuba is always in his head,'' Alejandro Ríos, a film expert who runs the Cuban Film Series at Miami Dade College, says about Cremata.
Currently in Melbourne, Australia, to promote Viva Cuba, Cremata -- who cited the time difference as a reason why he couldn't be interviewed for this story -- has walked the tight rope of staying vs. exile himself.
His family is what in Cuba is described as ''integrada,'' full participants and supporters of the system. Cremata's father, an airline worker, was killed in the 1976 Cubana Airlines bombing linked to two Cuban exiles. Like those on the downed flight, he's hailed in Cuba as ``a martyr.''
On the other hand, as an intellectual and filmmaker who operates within Cuba's official film industry, Cremata has enjoyed access to capitalist privileges.
At the height of the Clinton administration's people-to-people contact policy, Cremata lived in New York for a year as a Guggenheim fellow. He has also lived in Buenos Aires and visited Miami.
And now, as Viva Cuba airs at Miami's headliner film festival, it's not so much what Cremata's movie says about the choice of leaving Cuba that's causing a stir in the Cuban diaspora. It's what he's saying from Havana, as quoted in the Cuban press and in Europe.
In an EFE agency report published in the Spanish daily El País, Cremata said that leaving Cuba ``is a personal problem and not political, that also happens in Mexico and Morocco.''
In the Cuban press, he was quoted making government-style, militant comments in an interview to introduce his film to the Cuban public.
''What the terrorists wanted was to shut us up, silence us, shadow us, frighten us,'' he says. ``And we did what we know how to do best, we won once more the opportunity to yell, time and time again before the whole world, Viva Cuba.''
It's made people who like his film shake their heads.
''His talking a lot of crap is lamentable,'' Ríos says.``He should let his film speak for itself.''
Two Cuban writers -- Duanel Díaz in Madrid and Antonio José Ponte in Havana -- have written essays on www.cubaencuentro.com, a respected news, culture and opinion magazine, debating the shortcomings and merits of Cremata's film in portraying the Cuban reality.
''It's difficult for whoever has followed Juan Carlos Cremata's comments, interviewed over and over . . . not to interpret them as pure political opportunism,'' Ponte writes.
Cremata's interviews in the Cuban press, which started off with the issue of terrorism, have ''nothing to do with the plot of his film,'' but it got his film booked in every movie house across the island -- and a lot of press, Ponte notes.
After seeing the film in Havana for two pesos, Ponte adds, ``this story of love between two children, which began with grace and agility, doesn't deserve the publicity hijinks of its maker.''
Díaz's article, titled ''Too many palm trees and not enough cows,'' also calls Cremata ``opportunistic.''
The film, he says, ''obviates'' issues such as the fact that all Cubans have to ask the government for permission to leave the country, that they are issued food ration cards, are not allowed to enter national hotels, ``and can't even sacrifice their own cow, if they ever got one.''
In the EFE report published in Spain, Cremata said he made the movie with only $45,000 and a staff of 15.
The child actors are from the children's theater group La Colmenita, which Cremata's brother, Carlos Alberto, runs in Havana. Other relatives also had a prominent role. His mother, Iraida Malberti, an experienced children's television programmer, co-directed the film. Cremata's grandmother played the role of Malú's abuela.
The 44-year-old director is not expected to come to Miami for what will be the North American premiere of his film.
But in the audience will be a special guest -- the mother of the actress who plays Malú's mother, Larisa Vega. She has lived in Miami since 1998, separated from her only daughter, Ríos says.
She declined to speak to reporters.
''I don't want to hurt my daughter,'' Ríos says she told him. ``I have already seen the movie and cried, but I've bought tickets to every show. I want to see it with the public here.''