Thursday, December 15, 2005

Filmmaker Humberto Solas Talks about "Barrio Cuba": A declaration of love

Andres D. Abreu -

Tired of a certain stereotype of Havana, Humberto Solas decided to film Gente de pueblo —Ordinary People— which turned into Barrio Cuba —Cuba Neighborhood.

According to Solas, the foreign and superficial treatment of Havana on film started before Win Wenders came to Cuba, but it was his movie The Buena Vista Social Club that consolidated this image. An image generally reduced to the seaside Malecon, the dancing black woman, and many 1950s American cars, plus a chaotic, irrevocable and Manichean vision of Havana.

Such a rediscovery of Havana did not offer a real or complete picture. Now, Solas puts forth another image of Havana; more intense, mysterious and full of cultural diversity. “I submerged myself —Solas says— in this complex Havana that I love. The movie is also about its people, a non-judgmental, affectionate look at the characters that represent the majority of Cubans, those experiencing extremely difficult times in a country that has resisted 45 years of confrontation and blockade by the US.”

“No simplification or neo-tourism; the moviegoer is taken directly to the drama of the people and their unbreakable spirit of struggle. I achieved this by using everyday people that everyone can identify with because they are out there doing what they have to do to make ends meet, like all of us.”

Was there a prewritten script or did the stories come as the director delved into the neighborhood?

“In the 1990s, I wrote several stories as an outlet for my creativity. The stories told in the movie are from these. When I discovered that with digital technology I could make ‘low budget’ movies, I filmed Miel para Ochun. This experience allowed a veteran like me to make a comeback into the world of cinema. With this impetus and the new ideas of young filmmakers, I created the International Low-Budget Film Festival of Gibara in the eastern Cuban province of Holguin.

“It was during this time that I decided to make a trilogy and that the second film would be based on the stories I wrote in the 1990s. I picked five stories to include in a project that I called Gente de pueblo. I kept four of these and changed the name of the movie for marketing reasons. The Spanish representatives that helped in the production thought that the name of Cuba should be in the title. I liked the name Barrio Cuba because this country is like one big neighborhood where everyone is living the same experiences, where we are all equal and equitable even in poverty.”

The movie began to be filmed with a camera borrowed from a friend of actor Jorge Perogurria, the soul of this film. Then the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) got involved. After filming, the movie spent a few months in a drawer until a co-producer materialized and postproduction was started.

What are you most happy about after this long voyage and all your hard work as a filmmaker?“The reaction of the public, it was just as I had hoped. People feel that they are well represented and not stereotyped in this movie that is a declaration of love towards them.”

Taken from Granma Daily

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