We need the method of revolutionary cinema / by Pablo Navarrete

A still from The Hour of the Furnaces (La Hora de los Hornos) 1968 Photo: IMDb

Posted in Morning Star: The People’s Daily on April 28, 2023

PABLO NAVARRETE recalls the achievements of Third Cinema in Argentina and Cuba for the sake of socialist film-makers today.

IN their 1969 manifesto, Towards a Third Cinema, Argentinian film-makers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino defined Third Cinema as “a cinema of liberation” that stood in opposition to the values of the first and second cinemas.

They described first cinema as “the dominant commercial cinema,” in the service of US capitalism and imperialism; second cinema was “the avant-garde and experimental cinema which has been born as an alternative to the dominant one.”

Instead, Third Cinema film-makers sought to create a cinema that was rooted in local cultures and traditions, and that reflected the realities of life for ordinary people.

Often, this involved using non-professional actors and improvisation, as well as incorporating elements of documentary and other forms of non-fiction film-making.

In Argentina, the right-wing Ongania military dictatorship had taken power in June 1966 and the forces of the left had been heavily persecuted, with widespread censorship of media and cultural manifestations such as cinema.

It is in this political context that a year earlier, in June 1968, Solanas and Getino had first shown The Hour of the Furnaces (La Hora de los Hornos), one of the seminal works of the “Cine Liberacion” (Liberation Cinema) wave of revolutionary films from Latin America.

In this four-and-a-half-hour film, the directors had travelled across Argentina, and as a 1970 review of the film in Cineaste magazine points out, “made contact with, discussed with, and eventually filmed most of those who are actively involved (clandestinely as well as openly, outside as well as within the “legal” institutions of Argentina) in the struggle for a revolutionary transformation of Argentine society.”

The documentary’s title was rooted in the region’s colonial and revolutionary past and present.

When the first European “explorers” sailed along the south-eastern coast of South America during the early part of the 16th century, they reported seeing hundreds of cooking fires along the coast of Tierra del Fuego.

The expression “la hora de los hornos” (the hour of the cooking fires) was then regularly used by Latin American poets and historians, and by the time of the film’s release had become an anti-imperialist rallying cry taken up by the Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

In calling for a socialist revolution to sweep Latin America, he quoted the 20th century Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti and proclaimed: “Now is ‘la hora de los hornos’; let them see nothing but the light of the flames.”

As with “el Che,” Third Cinema also has a symbiotic link to Cuba and its revolution.

Just two months after the January 1959 revolution, the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) was created, and it went on to play a crucial role in the development of Third Cinema.

The ICAIC provided a model for collective production and distribution, as well as a source of funding and support for film-makers who might otherwise have struggled to get their work made.

The Cuban experience also demonstrated the power of cinema as a tool for social change and provided a template for other Third Cinema movements around the world.

We now live in an age of internet, social and digital media, where much lower technological barriers to entry have meant that producing video content in the spirit of Third Cinema has, arguably, never been easier.

However, making this a sustainable living for film-makers remains extremely challenging, especially since the guardians at the doors of television and powerful digital outlets seem less willing than ever to allow documentary films and video content that critically explore Western power and its crimes.

I was struck that at the 2022 Sheffield Documentary Festival, one of the most prestigious English-language documentary festivals in the world, the list of sponsors included the US embassy in Britain.

Given that Ithaka, a moving documentary about the horrifying abuses inflicted on Julian Assange and his family by the British and US government was having its British premiere, this US government festival support felt particularly distasteful.

For me, though, it demonstrated how much importance governments such as the US place on culture-washing their standing among audiences that could be described as progressive.

Despite these unfavourable institutional contexts and the nefarious influence of reactionary powers, the ability for like-minded film-makers guided by the ethos of Third Cinema to find audiences for their films remains.

One key aspect of Third Cinema was its emphasis on collective production and distribution, not just state-supported, as in the case of Cuba.

Unlike the Hollywood model, which was driven by individualistic competition and profit, Third Cinema film-makers often shared resources and worked collaboratively in order to create and distribute their films.

This allowed traditional commercial channels to be bypassed and audiences were reached directly, often through screenings in community centres, schools and other non-theatrical venues.

This DIY approach to production and distribution is very much what I have employed since releasing my first documentary in 2009 on Hugo Chavez and the Venezuela revolution.

While not an easy approach, it certainly provides an enriching experience in engaging audiences across the world with films challenging mainstream narratives.

In 1999, in a speech in Venezuela. Fidel Castro spoke about the importance of waging the “battle of ideas.”

While more than 50 years have passed since Solanas and Getino first proclaimed their Third Cinema manifesto, this battle of ideas is still being fought and the manifesto’s spirit remains alive today.

Pablo Navarrete is a Chilean-British journalist and documentary film-maker. He is the co-director of Fragments of a Dream (2023), a documentary about El Sueno Existe (The Dream Lives On), a festival of politics and culture in Wales inspired by the visionary Chilean musician Victor Jara. A London screening takes place on Wednesday April 26.

For more information go to: alborada.net/events.

Cuba’s President Extolls the Cuban People, Discusses Problems / By W.T. Whitney Jr.

President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez | Photo: Estudios Revolución

Addressing Cuba’s recently-convened National Assembly on April 19, President Miguel Díaz-Canel expressed confidence that the Cuban People would overcome warlike measures imposed by the United States.

“Congratulations to everyone on the Day of Victory!” he proclaimed. “On April 19 in 1961 on the sands of Playa Girón (Girón Beach) Cuba won the right to celebrate this day in providing for the first great defeat of imperialism in America. It was the triumph of the just against the unjust, of little David against the giant Goliath, of a socialist Revolution under the nose of the empire.”

“Thanks to this victory we today, on the tenth such occasion, install the People’s Assembly.” He declared that each of the 470 deputies “defends the interests of the majority,” that none of them won their seat through money or from the backing of an electoral party.

Referring to the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded by José Martíhe extolled “the single party that is the guarantee of unity” and through which, “the forces of a little nation do not disintegrate or fight each other.”

Díaz-Canel catalogued manifestations of U.S. all-but-war: invaders “working out of their caves on social networks,” and the “perennial cruelty of a blockade reinforced during the pandemic,” and “millions of dollars offered to those preparing to subvert Cuba’s internal order,” and “inclusion of Cuba on a list of supposed sponsors of terrorism that blocks access to financing.”

He stated that, “someday, earlier than later, the politics of hegemony will have to cease; multilateralism will take its place, and Cuba will be able to show how far a noble creative and talented people can go if they are united around clear objectives and if they are freed from pressures and blockades.”

Offering praise, Díaz-Canel maintained that “elections to the National Assembly are aimed at choosing the best people. That’s difficult … [because] there are many more good Cubans than there are seats in parliament.”

He expressed “certainty that no simulation of artificial intelligence could match the Cuban people’s achievements in recent years and their creative resistance. Their resilience exceeds the limits of any simulation or prediction. There is no algorithm capable of reflecting what we have lived through.”

Díaz-Canel highlighted the transparency of recent election campaigns, noting that voter participation was ample enough to waylay “hate-inspired” foreign-media expectations of low voter turnout indicative of a failed Cuban state. The recent elections included the Family Code referendum on September 25, 2022, elections for delegates to municipal assemblies on November 27, 2022, and voting for National Assembly deputies on March 27.

The Cuban president noted that the 75.8% of Cubans who voted on the last occasion was “above average for the other models of democracy in the world and [represented] “a show of citizenship, … patriotism, and above all, of political consciousness.”

The recently elected National Assembly overwhelmingly approved new terms for the Council of Ministers, the Council of State, and for Díaz-Canel, who will be serving his second and last five-year presidential term, as prescribed by recent constitutional changes.

Díaz-Canel outlined difficulties and unfinished tasks, observing that:

The world economy, uncertain and unstable in all latitudes, poses the first and greatest challenge for the new Council of Ministers … Leadership should focus on food production, the use of idle productive capacities, increased reliance on foreign-currency income, transformations required by the socialist state enterprise, enhanced efficiency of the investment process, and synergy of our economic actions and foreign investment. We do all this to increase the supply of goods and services and control inflation, which is the main priority in the economic battle. 

Even as he acknowledged “obstacles external to our economy that present profound difficulties,” the President “condemned bureaucratism, indifference, and corruption” in Cuba. He expressed confidence in the deputies’ “commitment and dedication,” while insisting that, “we will overcome the blockade without waiting for them to lift it.”

Díaz-Canel extolled Cuban youth “as the best revolutionaries because, dealing with every-day difficulties, they confront, try to fix, and achieve much. Despite adversity, they keep on smiling, loving, and believing in the possibility of a better country.” In fact, “socialism is closest to youth because it too is unfinished work.”

A persisting undertone of Díaz-Canel’s presentation was that of values, particularly those of solidarity and revolutionary service. Coinciding with the April 20 presentation of Díaz-Canel’s speech on resumenlatinoamericano.org were two news reports that exhibited diverse Cuban and U.S. purposes as regards Ukraine and expressed values.

report from Argentina announced a public television showing on April 23 of the Cuban film “Sacha, a child of Chernobyl,” first viewed in 2021. Living in Ukraine, Sacha was one year old and living in Ukraine on April 28, 1986 when the Chernobyl nuclear power installation exploded and radioactivity and radiation-caused diseases spread far and wide.

Sacha, un niño de Chernobyl, película completa

He was one of 26,000 children in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia who received sophisticated medical care and rehabilitation in Cuba for their illnesses between 1990 and 2011, at no cost to families or governments. In the 1990s, Cuba was suffering the economic disaster of its “Special Period.” The film may be viewed here; Spanish language subtitles are provided.

Also on that day, a report appeared indicating that “The United States announced … the sending of another package of military aid worth $325 million for the fight against Russian forces. The U.S. Defense Department highlighted through a communique that this aid ‘will allow Ukraine to continue bravely defending itself in a brutal war against Russia, unprovoked and unjustified.’”

During another April, 200 years ago, an early warning sign cropped of a reality that would from then on plague Cuba, provoke revolution and bolster counter-revolution.  In his speech, Díaz-Canel recalled that John Quincy Adams, as secretary of state, statedon April 28,1823 that, “if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but to fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only to the North American Union.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Fidel Castro’s Legacy Lives on as Cuba Keeps Sending ‘Doctors, not Bombs’ All across the World / By Daniel Kovalik 

Photo credit: Bill Hackwell

Posted in Resumen Latinoamericano on February 19, 2023

In the immediate aftermath of the recent devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, Cuba dispatched medical teams to the affected areas to provide care to victims. Their departure was marked by a farewell ceremony, which featured a large photo of Fidel Castro. It was quite appropriate, for the international medical solidarity which Cuba regularly extends to countries throughout the world is the brainchild of the late iconic leader himself, who, in 2003, proudly proclaimed that Cuba does not drop bombs on other countries but instead sends them doctors.

Though Castro retired from his official duties as President of Cuba 15 years ago to the day, he has continued to remain a leader in solidarity and in peace. Cuban doctors were sent to more than 70 countries over the years, including nearly 40 different countries in 2020 to help in the fight against Covid-19. In 2010, even the New York Times acknowledged Cuba’s successful campaign against the cholera epidemic which broke out in Haiti after another earthquake. In 2014, the Times similarly gave credit to Cuba’s leadership in successfully fighting Ebola in Africa:

“Cuba is an impoverished island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.

Cuba’s contribution is doubtlessly meant at least in part to bolster its beleaguered international standing. Nonetheless, it should be lauded and emulated.”

In addition, patients from 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries have traveled to Cuba to have their eyesight restored by Cuban doctors in what was dubbed “Operation Miracle.”  Among them was Mario Teran, the Bolivian soldier who shot and killed Che Guevara.

In 2014, Fidel received the Confucius Peace Award for his efforts in ending tensions with the United States and for his work to eliminate nuclear weapons. In addition, he played a key role in helping initiate, host and mediate the peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas which resulted in a peace deal in 2016, ending 52 years of brutal civil conflict.

The historic role that Fidel Castro played was always outsized for a country as small as the island nation of Cuba, and as a result, his impact was felt beyond its borders. One of the first countries that Cuba aided, back in the early 1960s, was Algeria, which had recently won its independence from France. As described by Piero Gleijeses, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, in his book Conflicting Missions:

It was an unusual gesture: an underdeveloped country tendering free aid to another in even more dire straits. It was offered at a time when the exodus of doctors from Cuba following the revolution had forced the government to stretch its resources while launching its domestic programs to increase mass access to health care. “It was like a beggar offering his help, but we knew the Algerian people needed it even more than we did and that they deserved it,” Cuban Minister of Public Health Machado Ventura remarked. It was an act of solidarity that brought no tangible benefit and came at real material cost.

This can be said of all of Cuba’s acts of international solidarity.

Meanwhile, what very few in the West know is that Cuba, under Fidel’s leadership and with the support of the USSR, played a key role in liberating southern Africa from US and apartheid-era South African domination, and in ultimately ending apartheid in the country itself.  It was for this reason that the first nation Nelson Mandela visited after his release from prison was Cuba. While there, Mandela lauded the nation as “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.” Even the Washington Post recognized Fidel Castro as a hero of Africa.

After the Chernobyl disaster of 1989, Cuba took in and treated 24,000 affected children. Many of these individuals and their families still live there to this day. This act of solidarity cannot be understated given the economic conditions in the island nation at the time. While Cuba benefited greatly from the support of the USSR and Eastern Bloc after its 1959 Revolution, which Fidel led, by 1989 the Communist governments had fallen and aid from the USSR itself, which would collapse in 1991, was drying up. As a result of all of this, Cuba would enter what it called its “Special Period,” a time of great economic deprivation which many believed would lead to the collapse of the Cuban Revolution as well. But Fidel and Cuba hung on, and they continued to extend help to people around the world even while they were having trouble feeding their own people.

Due to the intensification of US sanctions and the blockade of Cuba under President Donald Trump, and continued under President Biden, Cuba has now entered a time rivaling the “Special Period.” Even before Trump’s tightening of the sanctions – unrelenting US economic war against Cuba, described by Havana as “genocidal,” had cost the country an estimated $1.1 trillion in revenue and had denied the Cuban people “life-saving medicine, nutritious food, and vital agricultural equipment.”

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US even blocked delivery of critical medical aid, including masks and diagnostic equipment, to Cuba.

The US is punishing Cuba and the Cuban people not for their shortcomings and failures, but because of their very successes. And amongst the successes of the Cuban Revolution which Fidel Castro led even after officially stepping down from power, is Cuba’s unequaled solidarity to the world. Fidel’s “doctors, not bombs” speech implicitly contrasted his country with the US, which is by far the world’s largest arms supplier while helping less and less with humanitarian aid. Indeed, US sanctions are directly standing in the way of humanitarian efforts in countries like Syria – a country the US continues to economically strangle even in the face of the recent earthquake.

Jose Marti, the Cuban revolutionary and poet who inspired Fidel Castro himself, once said that “there are two kinds of people in the world – those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy.” It is evident that Cuba, continuously inspired by the ideas and example of Fidel, is of the former type.

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and is author of the recently-released book Nicaragua: A History of US Intervention & Resistance.

Source: RT