Cuba in 16mm

/ 1 June, 2018

The closest to a creative movement today in Havana are the 16mm Workshops of the Studio 8. A group creator of views about Cuban reality, which has been able to diversify aesthetics and draw together artists, something in itself dissipated in our means, more so when they are photographers, interpreters of the image. Workshops of Photography in Movement, experimental cinema made by professionals or beginners, which structure a visual sociology and an atypical way of doing on the scenario of current Cuban art.

Debtors of the best cinematography of the genre and the documentaries produced and consumed on the island (Santiago Álvarez, the heritage of the ICAIC newsreels, the documentary avant-gardism of Nicolás Guillén Landrián, certain referred fi lms of Octavio Cortázar), its authors are able to put together thorny problems of the period and the contemporary social context with lights and ingenuity. Juan Carlos Alom, paradigm of the Cuban photographic creation since the 1990s, and Aimara Fernández, a creator making her debut, are the precursors of the event.

Workshops of a cinema also known as underground, pure, absolute, alternative in the face of the market’s hegemonic model and the audiovisual empire, which disobeys the established narrative language. Exempt of the norm and self-financed, this work sustained for almost a year is able to draw changes not just in the tradition rooted by documentary makers, reporters and the mass communication platforms. The conciliation of established visual artists and empirical photographers, many of them with no academic titles, the work as a duo, the debate, the artistic feedback, the opening, the teaching foundation, the insertion of young people with experience in other fields and with an influence in the appreciation of a concrete urban culture, are some of these renovations. Good moves that are previewed to increase—for following workshops—by offering more space to other nonexclusive views of artists. Common people invited to film.

The social themes are decisive, the registering of a related reality, in order to present an unbiased story. Fragmented, random images that shape the multiple identity of a nonregulated imagination.

(…) It would be favorable to think of a greater promotion and the necessary sustainability of the project. I suggest the inclusion of sound (or sound track) in most of them as an enriching recourse of the visual narrative, a contrivance to underline scenes, dramatic line or plots. It will be of benefit to not overlook the hurdles of rebel visions, of an avant-garde nuance, in the shots of the concepts’ reach and effectivity, since in time they become proven guidelines, a sort of antiavant-garde. Avoiding subjects that slide toward the flippancy or the standards of the somber profile, so well-known, of life on this island.

This is a work in progress that presents commitment, and thus will show with veracity a country’s contemporary history and culture. The profound skill and talent of its initiator can undoubtedly sustain the challenge.

Grethel Morell Otero

Historian of Cuban photography, curator and art critic. She is author of the books Otras Historias de la Fotografía Cubana (Other Histories of Cuban Photography) and Damas, Esfinges y Mambisas: La Mujer en la Fotografía cubana desde el siglo xix (Ladies, Sphinxes and Warriors: Women in Cuban Photography since the 19th century). Co-curator of the exhibitions The Lost Gaze, Cuba 1970-1984 and Small Maneuvers: Cuban Contemporary Photography.

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