Culture, hegemony, et al.

XTROT666 at XTROT666 at
Fri Feb 10 00:59:09 MST 1995

I think Tom Condit is right about the difference between filmmakers in Cuba
(or the "socialist" countries) as opposed to novelists. The former relies on
resources not open to an individual, while the latter needs only a typewriter
and an agent abroad, which was true of many of the Cuban exile writers in the
early sixties and seventies, who had already published abroad.
   Cuban films have always been contentious. I made this point recently to
Siskel and Ebert, after they gave a favorable review to Tomas Alea's
wonderful film STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE (not to be missed), but suggested
that the director, Alea, must be in jail by now or in hiding.
  Tom is also right about Cuban authorities giving film makers a semi-free
hand. Unlike Soviet bloc film makers, who had to get prior approval, Cuban
directors could, for the most part, go ahead with their film projects. They
only face trouble AFTER the film is made (i.e., Alice in Wondertown).
   Tom also wrote:
   >I suspect there might be ulterior
motives related to foreign currency and prestige involved, but
let's skip the motives.  The fact is, there's a lot of incentive
for film makers to stay in Cuba where they have support, as
opposed to jumping to another country where they might be subject
to just as much red tape and censorship (mostly corporate rather
than governmental), without any guarantee of financial support.<
   The above is true, although there were many cases of writers (like Edmondo
Desnoes), who could not reasonably be desribed as "counter-revolutionary",
who were put through the meat-grinder. Castro and co. could have kept the
support of it's best writers a lot longer than it did,  but preferred to
start cleaning ideological house right after they felt they no longer needed
the strong support of foreign writers, like Graham Green and Susan Sontag
(i.e., foreign oppinion makers) in the face of a US invasion.
   As far as the attraction of foreign currency to novelists, it might be
somewhat parallel to the attraction of privilege that being a film maker in
Cuba represents, as opposed to being just another struggling director in the
US. I'm not doubting the Cuban director's motives (both revolutionary and
individual), but it seems a bit strange for the government to harass a
novelist into exile, then claim that he was a counter revolutionary
individualist for leaving, especially if he were involved in something as
collective as a literary suppliment.
   Interestingly enough, however, Cuban boxers (who are very good) always
give credit to their trainers, other boxers and their country, whereas
American boxers tend to give credit only to themselves (or Allah).
those who work in fields which require buildings, finance and
large numbers of (paid) colleagues, the situation in ballet,
classical music, "folkloric arts" and cinema has been far better
than in this country.  Why would anyone except a few superstars
want to leave?<
   Good point. East Germany had some wonderful film makers (operating under
strict censorship) who turned out some of the best political films I have
ever seen. Some of them left, but few found open (financial) arms in West
Germany. I have no idea what has happened to them.
   The East German playwrite Heiner Muller was asked why he stayed in East
Berlin when it took about fifteen years for a play of his to make it through
the censors and be given approval for production. He pointed out that
everything he (or others) wrote in East Germany was important, whereas in the
West you can write anything but it is buried under an avalanche of
meaningless, pre-approved garbage: Control of information using the market to
sort out mass quantities.
   One last thing. In my last email I implied that Alfredo Guevera was
homosexual. I meant the snide remark for Alberto Guevara, Fidel's friend and
notorious homosexual, who was never even harrassed by the security forces. I
appologize to Alfredo, who would probably be offended by my insinuation.
                                                          Don Kenner

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