April 9, 2001.
A rare treat for film buffs is coming to New York in a few days and
Queens will play a big role in it.
April 16-23, New Yorkers who, like all Americans, are forbidden by
the U.S. government to travel freely to Cuba will be able to attend the
acclaimed Havana Film Festival, right here in the city.
Seventeen of the movies will be shown at the Center Cinemas in Sunnyside.
"This is an opportunity for Americans to become acquainted with Cuban
films and exchange ideas with Cuban filmmakers," says the festival's
executive director, Kenneth Halsband. And not only Cuban.
Now in its 23rd year, the Cuban festival is international in scope and
"Amores Perros" ("Love's a Bitch"), a great Mexican film
awarded the first prize in Havana in 2000, and an Oscar nominee this year in the
category Best Foreign-Language Film, is having a successful commercial run in
New York. It also will be featured as one of 60 films shown at the New York
version of the Havana festival.
The comedy "It Happened in Havana" will open the festival. Daniel
Díaz Torres, its director, is best-known for having made the successful
and politically controversial "Alicia en el Pueblo de Maravillas."
The organizers, though, say the festival's intention is not political.
"The festival has nothing to do with politics; it is a strictly
cultural event," Halsband has said. "The impetus for the festival was
the films themselves."
This is the second time the Havana festival is to be held in New York, and
it presents an outstanding collection of Cuban and other Latin American cinema,
featuring winners from this year's festival in Havana.
The program offerings are almost as diverse as the population of Queens,
with features, documentaries, shorts and animation from Cuba, Spain, Mexico,
Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru,
Chile, Venezuela, Brazil and Panama.
Films such as the 1999 Ecuadoran "Ratas, Rateros y Ratones" ("Rats,
Thieves and Mice") and the 1994 Venezuelan "Sicarios," about the
violent youth of Medellin, Colombia, will be only two of 17 movies that can be
seen at the Center Cinemas.
Yet, this being the Havana Film Festival, the greatest number of movies come
from the Caribbean islands. Some of them, like "Retrato de Teresa" ("Portrait
of Teresa"), "Un Hombre de Exito" ("A Successful Man")
and "Los Sobrevivientes" ("The Survivors") are true Cuban
classics. Others, like "It Happened in Havana," are examples of the
kind of film the industry that made "Strawberry and Chocolate" is
capable of creating.
"The different times, subjects and techniques of the films give a
fascinating idea of four decades of the Cuban industry," Halsband has said.
And their quality is sure to come as a surprise to most festivalgoers who, like
the majority of Americans, know little about Cuba.
Despite the organizers' denials, the festival, just by virtue of being
related to Cuba, inevitably carries political connotations. The possibility that
right-wing Cuban-Americans will protest cannot be discounted.
The Havana Film Festival New York 2001 is a unique chance to see some very
good movies rarely shown anywhere. It should not be missed.
For more information, visit the Havana Film Festival Web site at
www.havanafilmfest.com, or call (212) 971-4771.