Our Man in Havana in Glasgow

Our man in Havana, Hugo Rivalta, co-director of Havana Glasgow Film Festival, arrived in Glasgow today. At home, he’s a professional screenwriter and published novelist. We caught up with him and asked him some questions ahead of the festival. Braving the adjustment to the cold and jet lag, he responded with these answers.

Q. How did you get involved with the festival?

A.-Eirene was my teacher at the International School of Film and Television in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. After graduating we maintained a friendship; I worked in Cuba and she in Glasgow. When she told me about this cinema festival in Glasgow, of course I said ‘yes’.

Q. Why should people in Glasgow come to a Cuban film festival?

A. Cuban cinema has a grand history from 1897 until now, with lots of very interesting documentaries and fiction films, and many international awards.

But the most important thing in a festival is to meet the people there, to find out about their culture. For me, when I was in Glasgow, I found out that Scottish people don’t drink whisky all the time! However, it’s very interesting to watch students watching the films, because they learn more about Cuban culture than through TV programmes, which are always the same. It’s not about the camerawork, it’s not about the vision – though these are important – it’s about the culture of the country.

Q. What are the challenges and advantages of making films in Cuba?

A. The big challenge is the low budget to finance the productions; this is the main problem, the same in each country. The advantages are many, like good professionals, the Cuban light, the architecture, but the most important is an interesting society with many conflicts and human stories.

Q. Cuba has a rich cinematic history. Which films or directors do you think are most important?

A, Santiago Alvarez was a famous filmmaker; he made a lot of documentaries with an energetic aesthetic in the 60’s. Tomás Gutierrez Alea made the most important fiction films from 1967 until the 2000s. Now it’s Fernando Perez – his debut who is the most important Cuban director. He knows how to take the Cuban spirit, the sacrifice of the Cuban family to make his work. In Cuba the people always wait with great anticipation for the next Fernando Perez film.

(His debut, “Clandestinos”, is the festival’s closing film).

Q. What makes Cuban films distinctive?

The most important aspect of Cuban cinema is their humanism; always from the point of view of the people, and their common drama. They have conflicts, they have problems in Cuba, you can find these in Cuban movies. For example the opening film “Esteban”, about a boy and an old man; if you go to the cinema, you will find out about the lives of children in Cuba.

Q. Could you tell us about the film you’re working on, “The Cuban Way”?

A. Eirene and I are fighting to finish this film about Cuban dancers, ordinary people who dance Salsa and Reggaeton, and also of Cuban society and their new transformation. It is an interesting feature film, about Cuba today. We are looking for funding to complete the process. I’m sure it will be a spectacular event.