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Cuban Film Festival to Run Thursdays, Feb. 19-March 19

Published: February 16, 2009

A film festival titled “Viva Cuba!” arrives for five consecutive Thursdays at 7 p.m. from Feb. 19 to March 19 in Lecture Hall 150. Admission is free.

“Our target audience is anyone at any age with an interest in Cuba (all movies will be in Spanish with English subtitles),” said Bonnie Gasior, a member of Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures (RGRLL) since 2001 and festival co-organizer with Nhora Serrano, who joined Comparative World Literature and Classics (CWLC) in 2006. “We hope to attract students from CSULB and beyond, faculty and community members.”

The festival will screen 2005’s “¡Viva Cuba!” directed by Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, “Vampiros en la Habana” (1985; directed by Juan Padrón), “Balseros” (2002; directed by Charles Bosch and Josep M. Domènech), “Habana Blues” (2005; directed by Benito Zambrano) and “Suite Habana” (2006; directed by Fernando Pérez).

One key to the eclectic selection is accessibility. “We wanted to include quality films that are not easily accessible,” said Gasior. “Many people, for example, are familiar with `Fresa y Chocolate’ or `The Buena Vista Social Club’ because they’ve managed to permeate Hollywood circles. The ones we’ve chosen are less well-known but still critically acclaimed. Once we identified several viable movies, we began to look at themes identifiable with Cuba, namely race, gender and class. We feel that these issues are and have always been important in Cuban films and are keys to the Cuban experience. We also sought out movies that are stylistically diverse in the movie medium itself so as to offer insight into the late 20th century Cuban film industry.” The festival is sponsored by International Projects, RGRLL, CWLC and the Latin American Studies Program.

The series has its roots in Cuba’s changing leadership. “Last year, when Fidel Castro stepped down from power, Nhora Serrano and I thought it would be an appropriate time to commemorate the end of an era, so to speak,” Gasior explained. “Since we, as Americans, have little access to and contact with Cuba, we thought a film series would be a good way to inform, educate and enlighten people about this tiny island-country that, because of political reasons, is often a big question mark for many people in the U.S.”

Gasior feels the series’ timing couldn’t be better. “This festival comes at an extremely appropriate time because 2009 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Revolution,” she said. “And more importantly, now that we have a new president who has expressed a desire to better Cuba/U.S. relations, Cuba will surely gain more visibility over the next few years.”

The festival is a first-ever event for the campus. Gasior and Serrano saluted the annual Latin American Film Series but stressed their films were dedicated solely to Cuba. They also praised administration support for the event. “We are lucky to be at an institution that supports both financially and academically this type of endeavor,” agreed Gasior and Serrano.

Gasior and Serrano encouraged both campus and community to attend the five-week series. Gasior summarized, “I think Ingrid Bergman said it best -‘No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight of the soul.’”