More Counterrevolutionary (?) Artists Speak Up For Their Freedom (II) / Angel Santiesteban

The latest: the government’s reaction

In the midst of the Assembly of the G-20 (as a group of twenty film directors call themselves), while the filmmakers debated the need for the approval of a Film Act and continued to denounce the hairy hand of censorship with Abel Prieto as its visible creator, as recently happened against Juan Carlos Cremata, a scream alerted that State Security was trying to expel one of those present.

It was Eliecer Avila, who was attending as a member of the general public until he was discovered by an agent of the regime. When the agent entered the room to expel him, he was rebuked by some of those present, although most preferred, as usual, to keep silent, because they knew that he was one of those shadowy figures who swarm cultural institutions and is responsible to pursue, monitor and warn them, and to make them regret their “mistakes” later on.

Everyone in the room stood up and approached the door where the official from ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry) and the agent of the State Security pressured Eliecer to leave the room, telling him that his presence stained what they were trying to build there.

Eliezer said he did not understand their attitude as he stayed quietly in the audience and had not even spoken about what was discussed there. The “segurosito” –little security guy — (he  wasn’t even five feet tall) responded publicly that he (Eliezer) was a counterrevolutionary and offended them with his presence at that cultural space. Eliezer defended himself saying that he was a revolutionary; his wife supported him, saying that “they were revolutionaries.”

Eliecer Avila, back right, blue shirt. Screencapturee

By that time, I had managed to approach and I said it was me who was not “revolutionary”, so before removing Eliezer they would have to remove me. Many filmmakers were amazed at the impudence with which the censor appeared before them as they debated how to end censorship. Freelance journalist Luz Escobar, berated him to read his name and the position he occupied in the ICAIC, to which he replied, “Everyone here knows me.”

Finally, Eliecer, despite assuring he was revolutionary, which didn’t matter to either the “seguroso” nor the ICAIC-official, refused to leave the room and the meeting continued with those present on their feet. They agreed, through voting, try to reach a bridge of dialogue with the pertinent state authorities.

It is unfortunate that once again they usurp spaces from artists, because only they had the right to ask Eliezer to withdraw from the room if they felt he should not be present. I guess State Security will demand that the next Assembly of the G-20 will take place behind closed doors.

However, looking at the gains from these troubled waters, I think that the presence of independent journalists has alerted the dictatorship to an understanding that the issue of the filmmakers is getting out of hand and becoming international news, and although their media prohibit publishing that information, they can not prevent us, independent bloggers, from doing it.

Hopefully our presence there has forced the dictatorship to accept that they must negotiate with the G-20 to restore what belongs to them in their own right: freedom of creation, something that never should have been seized with the justification of making a  “revolutionary” cinema.

I thought I had finished recounting the events at the Assembly, but something told me I should wait; we could expect some reaction after that altercation. And this December 3rd, TV reported a meeting of the plenary of the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), led by the government firefighter Abel Prieto, where they pledged to “not allow artists and their spaces to converge with the counterrevolutionaries”.

Abel Prieto and Raul Castro

It was the stubbornness I expected from State Security, the Communist Party and the leadership of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba; the coherent response of the dictatorship to a dilemma that is getting out of hand.

I am sure that this time the “counterrevolution” which is how they call us, the ones who are fighting peacefully for freedom and democracy, will push for the necessary dialogue between filmmakers and dictatorship to finally take place.

Last minute phone call

I received an anonymous call from a “concerned” person about my likely attendance at the inauguration of the New Latin American Film Festival.

Angel: Hello, -I said.

-Unknown: Santiesteban?

Angel: Yes, speaking.

-Unknown: I am calling to give you advice -says the enigmatic character

Angel: -Ok, I am listening – I insist.

Unknown: -Just to tell you, you will not be welcome at the opening of the Film Festival.

Angel:-That does not sound like an advice, is seems more like a threat.

Unknown:-Take it as you want, but don’t regret it later.

Angel:-I will be present anywhere I please -I say upset.

Unknown:-Do not think that we will again allow you to interfere with your presence as you did at the “Fresa and Chocolate” meeting room. We do not want you at the Karl Marx Theater, neither at the opening nor at the closing.

Angel:-Well, you do your part that I will do mine. -and I hung up.

I did not want to go anyway, but it mortifies me they want to manipulate their instruments of fear.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, “on probation”

Translated by: Rafael
17 December 2015

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