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Although cinema arrived at Cubamarker at the beginning of the 20th century and the island arrived early to the television phenomena and cinematographic production, only around 80 full-length films were produced before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, most of these films were melodramas. Following the revolution, Cuba entered what is considered the "Golden age" of Cuban Cinema.


Early stages

After being popularised by the brothers Louis Jean and Auguste Marie Lumière, the cinematographe traveled through several capital cities in the Americas before arriving in Havanamarker, which occurred on January 24, 1897. It was brought from Mexicomarker by Gabriel Veyre. The first presentation was offered at Paseo del Prado #126, just aside the Teatro Tacón, today called Gran Teatro de La Habana. Four short films were shown: "Partida de cartas", "El tren", "El regador y el muchacho" y "El sombrero cómico". The tickets were sold at a price of 50 cents, and 20 cents for kids and the military. Short after, Veyre performed a leading role in the first film produced in the island, "Simulacro de incendio", a documentary centered around firemen in Havana.

In this first phase of introduction there were several locations devoted to cinema: Panorama Soler, Salón de variedades o ilusiones ópticas, Paseo del Prado #118, Vitascopio de Edison (in the famous Louvre sidewalk). The Teatro Irioja (today Teatro Martí) was the first to present cinema as one of its attractions. The first in a long list of movie theatres in Havana was set by José A. Casasús, actor, producer and entrepreneur, under the name of "Floradora", later renamed "Alaska".

In the six or seven years before World War I, cinema gets expanded and stabilized as a business in the most important cities in Latin America. Cubamarker, just as the rest of the countries in the continent, went through those first years with itinerant and sporadic exhibitions, changing from European providers to North American providers, starting the dependency on the big Hollywoodmarker companies.

The first ambitious genre in the continent was probably historic reviews. In Cuba films like "El Capitán Mambí" y "Libertadores o guerrilleros" (1914), de Enríque Díaz Quesada with support from the general Mario García Menocal are worth mentioning. Díaz Quesada adapted from the Spanish novelist Joaquín Dicenta in 1910, as a tendency widely used then, of using literary works adapted for movies, as well as imitating Chaplin, the French comedies and cowboys adventure films. The silent stage of production was extended until 1937, when the first full-length fiction movie was produced.

Pre-revolutionary cinema

Before that Cuban Revolution of 1959 the total film production was around 80 full-length movies. Some films are worth mentioning, such as La Virgen de la Caridad starring Miguel Santos and Romance del Palmar by Ramón Peón. Many famous people from the continent came to the island to film, and some leading Cuban actors had a strong presence mainly in Mexico and Argentinamarker. Musicians such as Ernesto Lecuona, Bola de Nieve or Rita Montaner also performed and composed for movies in several countries.

Cinema after the revolution

In the first days of 1959 the new government created a cinematographic department within the Dirección de Cultura del Ejercito Rebelde (Culture division of the Rebel Army), which sponsored the production of documentaries such as "Esta tierra nuestra" de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and "La vivienda" de Julio García Espinosa. This was the direct ancestor of what would eventually become the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano del Arte y la Industria Cinematográficos), founded in March, as a result of the first culture law of the revolutionary government.

The first ten years of the institution were called by the critics the Golden Age (Decada de Oro) for the Cuban cinema, most of all because of the making of Lucía (1969) by Humberto Solás and Memorias del subdesarrollo (1968) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. These two directors are often regarded as the best film directors in the country. Memorias del subdesarrollo was selected among the best 100 films of all times by the International Federation of Film-Clubs. But the most notable Cuban film in the recent years was Fresa y Chocolate (1993) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío. It is about intolerance, and portrays the friendship between a homosexual and a young member of the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (a communist youth organization). This film was the first Cuban production ever nominated for the Oscars.

One of the most prolific and strong branches of the Cuban cinema in the last 40 years has been the documentaries and short-films. The documentary Now (1965) by Santiago Álvarez is often considered the first video clip in history. It combines a song with an uninterrupted sequence of images depicting racial discrimination in the U.S.marker. Animation has also been a major highlight in the last decades. In 1974 Juan Padrón gave birth to Elpidio Valdés, a character that represents a mambí fighter, struggling for Cuban independence against the Spanish occupation in the 19th century. It is very popular among Cuban children. The other great success of Cuban animation was the full-length film Vampiros en La Habana (1983), also by Juan Padrón.

Essential in the history of Cuban cinema is the Noticiero ICAIC Latinoamericano (Latin-American ICAIC News) whose first director was Alfredo Guevara, current president of the ICAIC. Years later was directed by Santiago Álvarez and the Mexican Rodolfo Espino, the most successful documentary maker in the island. Another very important event was the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano (International Festival of the New Latin-American Cinema) celebrated each year in Havanamarker since 1979, and it is the most important of its type in Latin America. There is also an international cinema university, the Escuela Internacional de Cine, Televisión y Video de San Antonio de los Baños (International School of Cinema, Television and Video of San Antonio de los Baños) located in San Antonio de los Bañosmarker near Havana, in a terrain donated by the Cuban government and supported by the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, Gabriel García Márquez and the Father of the New Latin American Cinema, Fernando Birri. Hundreds of young students from all over Latin America have studied direction, script, photography and edition.

The contribution of ICAIC, which was rapidly positioned as the head of a process aiming for legitimate artistic values and expression of nationality, is not limited only to the support in producing and promoting a movement that spanned fiction, documentary and animation, but also gave an impulse in the exhibition and popular knowledge of the best of cinema from all over the world, created the film archives of the Cinemateca de Cuba, and took part in initiatives such as Cinemóviles, which made cinema available on the most intricate sites of the national geography.

The institution also helped developing the Cuban poster, as a mean of promoting films. It gave birth between 1969 and 1977, to the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora, which influenced the Cuban music to a great extent, serving as a starting point for the movement of the Nueva Trova. Figures like Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés and Leo Brouwer were prominent through all this process.

Post-Cold War era

Renowned figures


Actors and Actresses

Anabel Leal Reinaldo Cruz

Cuban film festivals

Cuban Films

A list of some of the more important Cuban films produced since 1959:

Further reading

  • Michael Chanan, Cuban Cinema, B&T 2004, ISBN 0816634246 (for an uncritical account of Cuban cultural policies, a passionate defense of censorship, denigration of dissidents, etc)

See also

External links

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