Cuban films linger a while longer on the peninsula

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Cuban films linger a while longer on the peninsula

When a series of Cuban films was screened for a Korean audience for the first time at last month’s Jeonju International Film Festival, the festival organizers were well aware of the political context of the war in Iraq, and of the antiwar and anti-colonialist viewpoints taken by many Cuban films.
The screenings received a good deal of attention, not just from audience members but from local distributors. Some of the films, including “Sweet Havana” and “Memories of Underdevelopment,” were later aired by a local TV network, EBS. Through next Thursday, some of the films are being featured again, this time at Seoul’s Lumiere Art Centre in southern Seoul, in a program titled “Cuba in Seoul Lumiere.”
Included is a 1964 Cuban-Soviet propaganda film called “I Am Cuba,” by Mikhail Kalatozov. One of the most-watched Cuban films (via pirate DVD) among Korean cinephiles, the film depicts various faces of Cuba in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, five years after Fidel Castro had come to power. It boasts stunning visual imagery ― “a whirling, feverish dance through the sensuous decadence of Havana and the grinding poverty and oppression of the Cuban people,” according to’s editorial review.
“Memories of Underdevelopment” (1968), by Tomas Gutierrez Alea, is a politically open-ended film dealing with a young, middle-class intellectual who decides to stay in Cuba after the revolution while his family finds ways to leave. “Lucia,” (1969), by one of Cuba’s most respected filmmakers, Humberto Solas, is a deeply affecting psychological drama depicting the lives of three women named Lucia, each living in a different historical period: Cuba’s war of independence with Spain, the 1930s and the 1960s.
More recent films will be screened too. “Strawberry and Chocolate” (1994), by Thomas Gutierrez Alea, details an unusual relationship between a young gay Cuban and his homophobic friend; it was the first Cuban film to be nominated for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards in 1994. “From Son to Salsa” (1996), by Rigoberto Lopez, is a documentary that explores the history of the salsa and mambo music of the Afro-Cuban community.
All films have English and Korean subtitles. Tickets are 7,000 won ($6) per film. Lumiere Art Centre can be reached from Sinsa Station, line No. 3, exit 4. For more information, call (02) 545-3800 or visit

by Park Soo-mee
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