More Counterrevolutionary (?) Artists Speak up for Their Freedoms (Part I) / Angel Santiesteban

 

Angel Santiesteban “on probation,” Havana, 5 December 2015 — On Saturday, November 28th, there was a meeting at the “Fresa y Chocolate” center in Havana, of the Assembly of the G-20 as they have been called, this group of twenty directors of the seventh art — which has the desire and the priority that the dictatorship accept, finally, a Film Law with which they can obtain a space of personal freedom for their art. That is, to be able to conquer creative liberties in favor of independence from the bureaucracy that has, until now, made them in their entirety bow down to the government. For all we know, so far, they have not sent the hit-men to intimidate the “G20”.

Although the Government has not yet presented its real face — because of the scandal that would arise when dealing with internationally recognized filmmakers — it is possible that they are cooking up something against this group so difficult to re-educate. So far they pretend to ignore them, perhaps betting they’ll wear themselves out.

The firefighter that the dictatorship has used in the past twenty years for these acts of insurrection, is the well-known Abel Prieto, who served once as President of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), then as Minister of Culture, and today, as tyrant Raul Castro’sAdviser.

But  they have worn out this character Prieto to such an extent that a large percentage of artists do not believe his words anymore and consider him a kind of Cardinal Richelieu, creator of intrigues and persecutions against those who do not abide by his directive. It is clear, there is no other character that could dialogue with this group of artists, so it would not be surprising that at some point he wears the “matador suit” and must enter the ring to face the bulls.

Public censorship in the UNEAC Congress

But returning the purpose of this writing, I should describe the events of the last meeting of the G-20, admitting in advance that the filmmakers are hostage to the so-called “Revolution” whose makers became dictatorship figures almost from the beginning. The totalitarian system maintains a tight grip on artistic production, maintaining an exhaustive and constant eye on this genre that attracts such a large audience; and because as the government knows what is at stake if it accepts granting them “independence”, it refuses to untie their hands and minds, preventing them from doing and undoing what they please with their art, because they know that soon, it would bring discredit, criticism and ridicule from art, without their being able to act against them.

The  most direct and effective effort so far, has been the attempt to expose and demand a debate at last congress of the UNEAC, when the filmmaker Rebeca Chávez proposed opening the subject and the sinister official Abel Prieto acted as a censor in the most violent and despotic way imaginable, and radically prevented the director from presenting the needs filmmakers have today.

This “Cain” in disguise as Abel, feverish for power has become today the most intransigent cop, and the more fanatical persecutor of those creators who dare to raise discrepancies with the cultural power or political power, and all this when he should be the bridge between artists and the government instead.

The functionaries commit censorship and fraud

The vast majority of those attending the Congress were offended by that political official’s outburst, from a man who was once a colleague, someone who pondered, defended and represented art in general, but the more power he has gained in the Nomenklatura the more he has been betraying the principles of commitment to genuine art. Understand that, “delegates” chosen in the congresses of the guild, are, mostly, the most “committed”,  those who, having passed through the scrutiny, and so they were unable to rebel against official orders — although they were the most unfair — and in the most disciplined of fears they remain quiet before the abuses and injustices of the dictatorship.

Film directors demand the censors show their faces

At the Assembly on the 28th of November, a fraud perpetrated in the election of the authorities of this congress was exposed, as those who got the most votes from the artists, were later replaced by the docile ones, whom they exchanged for the chosen ones in order to take to that meeting the most submissive and manipulated to lift their arms in favor of the government and, ultimately, to refuse these spaces of freedom that urge the artist and the times they live in. Replacing elected ones by the meek ones has been a common practice for years; and in some post I stated that I witnessed these frauds, where Abel Prieto pointed his finger at those who had showed him such pusillanimous attitudes.

The filmmakers, dissatisfied with the government’s attitude and its envoy Abel Prieto, decided to continue gathering to achieve their aspiration, approval of a long-awaited Film Law. And in that sense Gustavo Arcos was very specific, talking about movies currently censored by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), also raising concerns about the state of the national cinema, and calling for the discussion to be sustained with the counterparty which denies the Film Law.

He recalled the times that Fidel Castro met with the filmmakers “to save the cinema” and that — since the ancient dictator is no longer in power — that interlocutor who, without revealing his face, denied the necessary Film Law from the shadows should be sought, including Raul Castro, Diaz Canel and, according to some of those present, Alfonsito Borges, that grim and mediocre “administrator” of the culture who has done so much harm, and now serves as ideologist of the Party Central Committee, and demand that he answer why he considers that the Cuban films that are censored are also “counterrevolutionary” and to explain “where, how and why these films are against the Revolution, and have a dialogue with the decision makers and probably those considered counterrevolutionary: Alfonsito Borges, and I do not know the others (…).

As for me, I feel that the filmmakers have been too patient, waiting for the routine, when a plan B with stronger actions should have been in place, because that is the only way that things in this country will evidently be resolved, by forcing a discussion. I do not know how much Raul really knows about all this because I am very surprised that Abel Prieto himself, who is his adviser, opposed or at least slowed down, keeping his cards close to his chest, right there at the congress of the UNEAC, the so-called Film Law.”

And in full assembly state security appears imposing their terror (to be continued).

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translated by: Rafael

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