Cuban digital film-making

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Apr 18 11:24:17 MDT 2002

NY Times, April 18, 2002

A Cuban Filmmaker Gets His Voice Back


Humberto Solás, the honoree of this year's Havana Film Festival New York,
opening today with his "Honey for Oshun," is producing a festival of his
own. It will be the Poor Film Festival, a celebration of low-budget movies
and the digital technology that makes them possible.

Mr. Solás, 60, a director for more than 40 years and one of the most
admired in Latin America, said that "Honey," his new film, was delayed by
economic hardships that had shrunk film production in his native Cuba to
three movies a year in the 1990's, down from as many as 15 the previous

He says he is among those who have been able to restart or start their
careers thanks to digital video and its lower costs comparable to film.

"Honey," the first digital film out of Cuba and Mr. Solás's first film in
10 years, represents not only his comeback, Mr. Solás said, but the promise
of a technology that gives access, and greater independence and artistic
freedom, to filmmakers everywhere who cannot get financing or must rely on
co-productions with other countries to sidestep money troubles.

More crucially, he said, digital filmmaking, which captures images on
digital videotape rather than on 35-millimeter film, ensures that more
voices can be heard. 

"Digital film has the virtue of democratizing a profession that up to now
has been very elitist," said Mr. Solás, who has scheduled his low-budget
festival for November in Gibara, Cuba.

In Hollywood, the likes of Ben Affleck to George Lucas also laud digital
filmmaking for making movies cheaper to produce and show and for
encouraging innovation. But in Latin America and other places where
financing productions is the main struggle even for proven filmmakers, the
new technology can mean having a cinema industry at all. 

Mr. Solás said that "Honey" cost $200,000, a third of what it would have
taken to shoot it using traditional film. 

Digital cameras are "the difference between making a movie or not making it
at all," the Argentine director Eliseo Subiela said, adding, "The use of
new technologies is a question of survival for certain cinema."

The festival, which runs through April 27, offers a sampling of Cuban and
other Latin American films, featuring winners of the annual Havana Film
Festival in Cuba (the most important competition for Latin American
filmmakers). About a third of the films being shown were shot on digital
video. The festival is a project of the American Friends of the Ludwig
Foundation of Cuba, a nonprofit organization that fosters cultural
exchanges between the United States and Cuba. The films will be shown at
five theaters scattered about Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. Festival
information is available at 


Louis Proyect
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