carpet of light“Building bridges based on the belief that film becomes art only when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil & paper. Cine Pobre Film Festival is the 100% cartel-free intersection of culture and capabilities…” Chris Bartter previews Cine Pobre and the Havana Glasgow Film Festival.

The kind of red carpet that we associate with the commercial, ‘big money’ film festivals of the globe is not something that a small Cuban festival can usually afford. Instead Jorge Perugorria, Director of Gibara’s Cine Pobre Festival says, they have a unique alternative. “There’s not another red carpet like this in the world” he said earlier this year.

He was referring to the opening ceremony where, as Scottish screenwriter and director of the Havana Glasgow Film Festival, Eirene Houston says “The participants parade from the top of Gibara’s main hill, down into the town centre, and the whole town turns out to watch and get involved in the festivities! It is amazing to see this river of light spreading down into the town.”

Once every two years this small Cuban town way off the beaten track plays host to the International Cine Pobre Film Festival; a festival that has now earned an enviable reputation. This year Eirene Houston was asked to be one of the jurors for the four days of film.

The Cine Pobre Festival (Cine Pobre literally translates as ‘Poor Cinema’ but more accurately means ‘Low Budget’). It was started by well-known Cuban film director Humberto Solas in 2003.

Eirene Houston says “Gibara (a small fishing town 700 miles from Havana), was declared a National Monument in 2004 and despite the remoteness, or perhaps because of it, Cine Pobre has become a very special and well loved festival. The very close relationship that has been built over the years between the festival and the people of Gibara is so much of what gives the festival its charm.” Scotland’s second Havana Glasgow Film Festival later this month is set to benefit from Eirene’s involvement.

“Building bridges based on the belief that film becomes art only when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil & paper. Cine Pobre Film Festival is the 100% cartel-free intersection of culture and capabilities…”

The films are low budget, but not low quality. It’s a type of cinema of restricted economic possibilities, made in less developed countries, or increasingly in better off ones where independent film makers have fewer and fewer resources.

Instead of bemoaning the restrictions on film makers, Solas was clear that “this will mean in the near future the insertion into cinematography of social groups and communities who had never before had access to the exercise of film production.” His vision was to bring into cinema local groups and communities previously without a voice, and to utilize new technologies in filmmaking to ‘tear down the wall of film distribution, which is dominated by a handful of transnationals and which alienates the public.”

“this will mean in the near future the insertion into cinematography of social groups and communities who had never before had access to the exercise of film production”

This opening up of the filmmaking process continues in the ethos of the festival despite Solas’ death from cancer in 2008. And it extends to the involvement of all of Gibara. Eirene says, “The juries go round all the town’s local committees to give presentations of the films.”

Over forty films were selected for the competition, including fictional shorts and feature films, documentaries, and animations and video art.

cinepobre_anim3Eirene says “The films have both quality and diversity. Filmmakers from every continent were represented, from countries with a long-established cinematic tradition (United States, India, Germany, France, Burkina Faso) and others with an emerging industry (Chad, Ecuador, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritania). The themes covered were similarly eclectic, including serious, historical, funny and heart-warming looks at love, migration, communication, alienation and engagement.

The films came from all over the world, and, while the main winner was a US film; Tangerine – shot entirely on iPhones, all the other category winners came from Cuba. In an exciting coup for the Second Havana Glasgow Film Festival, which starts on 11 November, Eirene has managed to snaffle the winners. “We are running a ‘Cine Pobre’ day.” She says. “I have the category winners, The films we’ll be showing are the documentary Humberto, La Pared de Las Palabras (as another chance to see), feature documentary El Tren de La Linea Norte, video short El Bohio, La Despidida a short Documentary, and then Tangerine.”

Other significant films being shown in the festival programme include a premiere of the first feature film by Cuban music video director, Arturo Santana. Bailando con Margot (Dancing with Margot) is ‘Film Noir – Havana Style’ and thanks to support from Unite the union, the director himself is coming to Glasgow to take part in discussions on the film. Also shown will be Los Bolos en Cuba, a warm, irreverent look at the years of Soviet assistance to the country, Where You’re Meant To Be Peter Fegan’s great film featuring Aidan Moffat’s travels round Scotland with new takes on traditional song, and his clash with folk-singing icon, Sheila Stewart, and many more from Cuba and Scotland.

The festival runs from 11-19 November in various venues in Glasgow. The full programme is on the website – www.hgfilmfest.com/programme

Jorge Perugorria, star of probably the best-known Cuban film of modern times – Fresa y Chocolate, is the new chair of the Cine Pobre festival. He is clear that he has a responsibility and a commitment to continue Solas’ work. He wants to make the Cine Pobre Festival an annual event, and wants to continue the connection between Cuba and Glasgow. If this year’s plans are successful, it seems a regular slot is quite likely!

The International Cine Pobre Festival relies on the key support of the Cuban Institute for Movie Art and Industry (ICAIC), the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, the Provincial Government of Holguín Province and the City of Gibara, among other institutions.

More details here: http://cinepobre.org/festival/sneak-previews-/4/