The Havana-Glasgow Connection

The HGFF team in full Cuban regalia

Today witnesses the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Che Guevara, a prime architect of the Cuban Revolution. It’s also one month until Havana Glasgow Film Festival, one of Scotland’s youngest and most innovative film festivals, which will be celebrating the legacy of Che and the Cuban revolution.

Havana and Glasgow are twin cities, both having a reputation as ‘cinema cities’, where people love nothing more than watching and talking about films. In the Golden Age of cinemagoing, Glasgow boasted over 100 cinemas, and the most cinema seats per head anywhere in the world, until that total would be eclipsed by Havana. You can still watch films in Havana with audiences of up to 2,000 people, queues curving round the block the way they did in Glasgow in the 30s, especially during the International Film Festival of New Latin American Film in Havana every December.

Cubans love to go to the cinema, especially to see Cuban films, and during the festival anybody can buy a ‘passport’ which admits you to 10 films of your choice for less than £1. This, essentially, is what Havana Glasgow Film Festival is – a passport into the unique experience of Cuban film and culture.

This visual idea is carried over in the festival’s programme, which folds out into a Cuban passport design. The visual identity of the festival this year is carried over onto a series of T-shirts and tote bags emblazoned with the iconic image of Che Guevara, overlaid on a Glasgow street map, designed by visual arts collective Original Copy.

Laurie McInally, of Original Copy, said – Exploring the theme of twinned cities, we pay tribute to Che Guevara with a unique design combining his iconic portraiture merged with the Glasgow street grid system, in celebration of the twin cultures and twin identities of Havana and Glasgow.

Festival director Eirene Houston with the HGFF flag

Hugo Rivalta, HGFF’s codirector in Cuba, said – Again I ask the question that I have done many times since I arrived here in Glasgow; but still I haven’t yet answered it – maybe it’s our desire to laugh, dance, or our dream of building a society where everybody can live well. Perhaps as much as we try, we will never know what connects Glasgow and Havana. I decide not to think about it anymore, to just enjoy the people and all that make it a beautiful city. Let it remain a mystery.