In Cuba, artists and intellectuals have had a troubled time since November. As various media reports, the San Isidro movement failed with their request to obtain the release of the rapper Denis Solís. Solís was sentenced to 8 months in prison for an alleged offense of "disregard for authority".
The police's termination of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) hunger strike has alarmed artists and intellectuals in Cuba. Despite being mediated by several well-known artists such as the filmmaker Fernando Pérez, the dialogue is difficult and the wave of arrests for intimidation continued.
After the ten-day hunger strike of the San Isidro movement by the police on November 26th, several personalities of the Cuban artistic and intellectual life were briefly arrested, including Tania Bruguera, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and most recently the editor of the magazine for culture and Politics El estornudo, Carlos Manuel Álvarez. In this context, the 27N is created.
After the independently produced feature film Quiero hacer una película was censored at the 17th Muestra Joven ICAIC in April 2018, the film premiered in the Madrid Cinematheque in mid-November. Quiero hacer una película (I Want to Make a Movie) is the debut film by graphic designer Yimit Ramírez. Yimit, who became known for dealing with various media and techniques in the visual arts, combines eclecticism with youthful insolence and abrupt genre breaks in cartoons, 3D animations, docu-fiction and short films with prominent Cuban actors.
A generation defies it - Yimit Ramírez shows his film #QHUP in Madrid and at online festivals. Yimit's debut Quiero hacer una película (#QHUP) also breaks with the conventions of filmmaking by opting for collective creation or coismo, like his script co-author Tony Alonso calls it, decides and writes and makes a film together with Tony and the protagonist Neisy Alpizar, all fellow students.
Quiero hacer una película or #QHUP carries the will to make an independent cinema in Cuba in the title and grew to become the biggest crowdfunding for a debut film of the decade. Thanks in particular to communicator and journalist Maria María Ramírez.
The plot of the film is brief: Tony, fascinated by Neisy during the Rolling Stones concert in Havana, follows her inconspicuously and secretly decides to make a documentary about her life. He sneaks into her house, hides under her bed and begins recording her private life. So he witnesses Neisy's conflicts, her bisexuality and her way of earning a living.
Nothing special, one thinks at first, until the scandal at the Muestra Joven ICAIC in April 2018. A debut film, censored because of a pile of dirt, shows the way. #QHUP was censored when it was to be shown as a work-in-progress at the Muestra Joven ICAIC, the annual meeting place for young talent in Cuban cinema. The insult to the official character José Martís in the following dialogue gave the occasion:
-José Martí is a lot of dirt, Neisy! … José Martí is a bunch of dirt! …
José Martí didn't laugh.
-How do you know that?
José Martí was a fagot.
-It's okay. Why not?
But we never met him. He lived in a different time, understand ...
And I don't believe in Martí. I am not a Martian.
-My father is one.
And my mother first. Mine anyway.
-I like Martí.
-But you don't know him!
-No, but ...
-I like you.
-For me, you are my Martí right now.
This tender dialogue between young people from different social classes and world views was the reason for the censorship. The isolated reading of "José Martí is a pile of dirt!" ignores the reflection on the Cuban cultural heritage that can be put in simple words in Quiero hacer una película.
#QHUP is also a reflection on Cuban cinema and its relationship to the world, for which Cuba serves as a backdrop for spectacles, be it for Fast and Furious 8 (2017) or for Barack Obama - for those who look at the world through the vehicle window - or for misery porn that exaggerates rubble and lack, or the Cuba of the cult of its stone figures, as if fallen out of time and lagging behind, also in matters of rock music. In this Cuba, the characters of Tony, Neisy and Yimit seem to have no voice. So you have to make your film with the tenderness and resources you have.
The legacy of Cuban cinema brought up to date
Those who are familiar with the classics of Cuban cinema, such as Memorias del subdesarrollo by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968), will find numerous references in Yimit Ramírez's debut film: the voyeur Tony who lives surrounded by art and cultivates a demanding lifestyle, shares the characteristics of the character of Sergio, protagonist of the classic from 1968. Neisy, who is observed and analyzed by the voyeur, accordingly takes on the role of Elena. The view through a keyhole of Neisy's precarious house is reminiscent of Sergio's telescope. The neo-realistic approach of Quiero hacer una película has a lot in common with Memorias del subdesarrollo.
One difference between the characters, however, is that Tony has to obey a father who wields power over him and the devices through which he acquires his world knowledge, the cameras. Tony, like a scientist or artist, has to deconstruct, demean, and overcome national symbols in order to become aware of them. Because that's the only way he can get closer to Neisy's Cuba. Neisy, like Elena, would like to transform herself again by taking over the camera like a video blogger and facing a new world with Tony. It is this desire that moves deeply after seeing almost 100 minutes of fixed shots, shaky hand cameras, rough sex, tears, arguments and something of Havana's old town and Vedado at night, alongside the everyday joys and complaints of Cuban women. #QHUP is missing a lot, especially the right time. Yimit Ramírez 'work is characterized by an eclecticism that is typical of those who want to learn new techniques and quickly implement them in their work. Quiero hacer una película is a must-see. Some scenes may seem long, but they have their function to open up the range of topics. Quiero hacer una película is a debut film that draws on a classic, but faces other challenges and imposes limits, such as the narrator hidden under a bed or the disapproval of the institutions during its creation.
The tenderness of young people
Censoring Quiero hacer una película is set in only a few rooms and its meaning does not seem obvious. Because creative ideas arise in inconspicuous places. These are the spaces of a generation of artists and creative people, places like Marta María Ramírez's kitchen, where doubts can be expressed, new ideas arise and take shape through dialogue and over tea.
Marta María Ramirez, who has experience with online crowdfunding in Cuba, sees the 2018 censorship as an announcement of various bills and edicts that seek to restrict the independent activity of cultural workers, be it in their forms of funding or in their forms of expression. Marta María Ramirez describes her experiences:
I had already done crowdfunding for musicians, including Pascual Canteros, for the record by Jorgito Komankola. When Yimit came to me with his idea, I initially rejected it. Working intensively on a Verkami campaign for 45 days robs you of sleep. Back then, you had to dial into the internet for expensive money in the park at night. You have to be accompanied there because at night you can be robbed there. I put the cost of online activities at around USD 500 for such a campaign. You have to put that much money into such a project first.
“Crowdfunding in Cuba, a country with few resources but with many Cubans and curious people scattered around the world, has its pitfalls”, says Marta. “I learned that crowdfunding is more of a communication strategy because rarely someone is willing to give money for a project. Especially when there are much more urgent matters, such as after destruction by hurricanes."
The consequence of the censorship is the caesura
For what is manifested today under the name 27N in Cuba, the communicator Marta María Ramirez also sees the censorship of Quiero hacer una película and the legislation after 2018 as the first signs:
Laws, freedom of expression, too in art, and whose financing options regulated - that is, above all restrict - were then also used: for example, §242 which protects the national symbols, but already §88 (Ley de Protección de la Independencia Nacional y la Economía de Cuba) leaves little room for independent financing of art production. It's easy to get into conflict. Then came the decree §349, which restricted artistic freedom primarily through fines up to imprisonment. Finally, §370 came, which tries to regulate independent film in Cuba, but does not correspond to the reality of filmmakers.
I think all of this - especially §349 - led to what we now know in 27N, the resistance of artists and intellectuals to §349. A law that is currently repealed because the formulation remains imprecise and it is up to the censor to interpret the law.
Stealing something really big, a heart
Quiero hacer una película not only seduces us as an independent film work with everything that precedes it: posters, debates, cartoons, a crowdfunding campaign that also includes the printed polo shirts, but is characterized by that it accepts the Cuban cultural heritage with freshness and shamelessness and feeds it into the creative process of today's generation, the generation that today shows solidarity in #27N.