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Humberto Solás (1941 – 2008), an emblematic figure in Cuban and Latin American cinema, was a visionary. In addition to his extensive cinematography, the zenith of which was the filmLucía, one of the ten most important films in the history of Latin American cinema, he continued to make history with the creation in 2003 of the International Cine Pobre (Low-Budget) Film Festival in Gibara, in the north-eastern province of Holguín, which he led until his death.

This is no exaggeration. Take some of the concepts expressed in his Manifiesto del cine pobre, where he begins by clarifying any misunderstandings, “Low-Budget cinema does not mean cinema lacking in ideas or artistic quality. It refers to a type of cinema with a limited budget…”

In this overview of his vision, he refers to the importance of the technological revolution in film, and calls for filmmakers “to harness and encourage the reduction of production costs…” as “this will mean in the near future the insertion into cinematography of social groups and communities who had never before had access to the exercise of film production.”

He likewise noted, “We must tear down the wall of film distribution, which is dominated by a handful of transnationals, which alienates the public, restricting their access to the works of their compatriots,” which would “allow us to fight the spectacle of gratuitous violence in film, which demeans audiences and especially younger viewers.”

Now, his Gibara Festival returns to the fore (April 20-24), paying tribute to two other works by the 2005 National Film Award winner. The first is the fictional short Manuela, filmed half a century ago, which will be presented at the event by its protagonist, Adela Legrá. Following its premiere, film critic Eduardo Manet wrote in Granma (4 August, 1966): “A little more than half an hour running time was enough for Humberto Solás to produce one of those works that defy the passage of time.Manuela will be tomorrow, as it is today, a rejuvenating, tight and enthralling film.”

Humberto Solás proved his talent early on, shooting Lucía (1968) aged just 27. The film is among the top ten retrospective movies of “Third World” cinema (along with Memories of Underdevelopment by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea). Photo: Cubadebate

Meanwhile, Miel para Oshún (2001), Ariel Award for Best Latin American Film in 2002, Cuba’s first digital film, will be celebrated on its 15th anniversary. One of its protagonists, Jorge Perugorría, is now the president of the Festival.

Perugorría (Havana, 1965) rose to international fame with Fresa y Chocolate (1993), by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, in which he played the role of Diego, a young homosexual. Since then he has acted in some fifty films, directed by the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Gutiérrez Aragón, Mariano Barroso, Ruy Guerra, Gracia Querejeta, Bigas Luna, Jorge Alí Triana, and Cubans Juan Carlos Tabio, Gerardo Chijona, Humberto Padrón and Arturo Sotto, as well as filming Barrio Cuba andMiel para Oshún with Solás.

At a press conference on April 12, at Havana’s Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, Perugorría presented the program of the 12th International Low-Budget Film Festival.

His first words were dedicated to Solás, as he recalled filming Miel para Oshún in Gibara, at a time when the maestro was in the midst of a great challenge as a creator, shooting for the first time in digital format. “He did so with all his humility as a creator, leaving behind the big budgets, the infrastructure to which he was accustomed. Humberto adapted and was the first with this technology, to continue making history.”

It was there that Solás dreamt up the Cine Pobre Festival, Perugorría added, noting that for him, continuing Humberto’s work represents a responsibility and a commitment, in support of auteur filmmakers and maintaining his interactive sprit with all the arts.

Over forty films were selected for the competition, including fictional shorts and feature films, documentaries, animations and video art.

Jorge Perugorría in the leading role in Miel para Oshún, by Humberto Solás. Photo: http://www.jorgeperugorría.com

There are a total of ten fictional feature films, with works from Chile, El Salvador, the United States, Finland, Germany and Mexico, including four Cuban films: La pared de las palabras, starring Isabel Santos and Jorge Perugorría, directed by National Film Award winner Fernando Pérez; Café amargo, Rigoberto Jiménez’ debut; La obra del siglo, by Carlos Machado; and Venecia, by Kiki Álvarez.

The twelve shorts are from Colombia and Spain as well as five from Cuba: Crepúsculo, by Juan Pablo Daranas; Ladridos, by Fernando Fraguela; La nube, by Marcel Beltrán; La profesora de inglés, by Alan Gonzalez, and Polski, by Rubén Rojas.

There are ten documentaries up for the award, from Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and two from Cuba: Marcelo Martin’s La línea del tren norte; and Carlos Barba‘s Humberto.

Barba’s documentary, screened at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema last year, addresses each of the titles by Solás, although, according to its director, “To attempt to cover an entire creative life such as that of Humberto Solás in a single documentary, even one of feature length, is impossible. I tried to approach the artist, the intellectual, the friend… but also a man of character; supported by his unforgettable frames and the films he bequeathed to Latin American cinema, his family members and friends.”

There are also ten documentary shorts, from Canada, Spain, Mexico, Venezuela and five from Cuba: Héroe de culto, by Ernesto Sánchez Valdés, which just received the Award for Best Documentary at the 2016 ICAIC Young Filmmakers Showcase; El enemigo, by Aldemar Matías;La despedida, by Alejandro Alonso; Máscaras, by Lázaro González; and Milagrosa, by Diana Montero.

In the animations and video art categories, there are seventeen films in competition from Canada, Spain and Cuba, which in the first category include La venganza, Traqueotomía and Un horizonte similar, by José Andrés Fumero; La lucha de clases manufacturadas, byMónica Batard; VII-53, by Víctor Y. Sánchez and in the second category El bohío, by Juan Carlos Pérez.

Gibara, the “Villa Blanca”, as it is often called, is a picturesque coastal town in the north eastern area of Cuba, some 700 kilometers from Havana, that has passionately hosted each edition of the Cine Pobre Festival. In return, this 12th edition will celebrate, in advance, the 200th anniversary of the founding of Gibara, on January 16, 2017.

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