Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
|Died||16 April 1996 67) (aged|
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈlea] ; December 11, 1928 – April 16, 1996) was a Cuban film director and screenwriter. He wrote and directed more than twenty features, documentaries, and short films, which are known for his sharp insight into post-Revolutionary Cuba, and possess a delicate balance between dedication to the revolution and criticism of the social, economic, and political conditions of the country.
Gutiérrez's work is representative of a cinematic movement occurring in the 1960s and 1970s known collectively as the New Latin American Cinema. This collective movement, also referred to by various writers by specific names such as "Third Cinema", "Cine Libre", and "Imperfect Cinema," was concerned largely with the problems of neocolonialism and cultural identity. The movement rejected both the commercial perfection of the Hollywood style, and the auteur-oriented European art cinema, for a cinema created as a tool for political and social change. Due not in a small part to the filmmakers’ lack of resources, aesthetic was of secondary importance to cinema's social function. The movement's main goal was to create films in which the viewer became an active, self-aware participant in the discourse of the film. Viewers were presented with an analysis of a current problem within society that as of that time had no clear solution, hoping to make the audience aware of the problem and to leave the theater willing to become actors of social change.
Born in Havana on December 11, 1928, Gutiérrez was raised in an affluent, politically progressive family. After receiving his law degree from the University of Havana in 1951, Gutiérrez studied cinema at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, graduating in 1953. He was heavily influenced by Italian Neorealism, and created his first films in Rome with future Cuban colleague Julio García Espinosa, with whom he co-directed the documentary film El Mégano (The Charcoal Worker).
Shortly after the success of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, Gutiérrez, Espinosa, and several other young filmmakers founded the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). As ardent supporters of the Revolution, ICAIC was a filmmaker's collective which believed film to be the most important modern art form and the best medium to distribute revolutionary thought to the masses. Gutiérrez's Esta Tierra Nuestra (This Land Of Ours), was the first documentary made after the revolutionary victory. ICAIC focused mostly on documentaries and newsreels in its formative years, but eventually expanded into production of feature films, including Gutiérrez's early Historias de la Revolución (Stories Of The Revolution) (1960), ICAIC's first fiction film, and Doce sillas (The Twelve Chairs), (1962). Stories of the Revolution was entered into the 2nd Moscow International Film Festivaland The Twelve Chairs was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.
Gutiérrez's first widely successful feature, Muerte de un burócrata (Death of a Bureaucrat) (1966) introduces itself as a sort of homage to the history of cinematic comedy, and includes direct allusions to the work of Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Luis Buñuel, and many others. The story follows a young man's confounding plight through bureaucratic offices to have his dead uncle exhumed and then reburied after the body is buried with his identification card.
His next film, Memorias del Subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment) (1968) was the first Cuban film to be shown in the United States since the Revolution. Based on Edmundo Desnoes’s novella "Inconsolable Memories," the film is the memoir of a morally ambiguous bourgeois intellectual living in Havana in the period between the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The protagonist is unwilling to take a political stance one way or another, yet continues to despise the country around him for being backwards and underdeveloped. His life eventually fades into nothingness, becoming a personality which has no use in this new Cuba.
In a self-reflexive cameo appearance, Gutiérrez calls the film a "collage…with a little bit of everything". Gutiérrez uses a dizzying array of materials and filmic styles in Memories, from documentary-style narrative sequences which use long unbroken shots taken from handheld cameras to agitational montage sequences reminiscent of the films of early Soviet filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein. Memories makes use of various types of media including direct documentary footage shot, still photos, archive and newsreel footage, clips of Hollywood films, and recorded speeches by Fidel Castro and John F. Kennedy, to create a seemingly disarticulated film language that is in direct contrast to the straightforward Hollywood style.
Although criticism of the Revolution and Cuban society was at the heart of not only Memories, but all of Gutiérrez's works, Gutiérrez continued to be a dedicated supporter of Cuban Socialism. But his works could hardly be described as propaganda either. Gutiérrez described the motivation for his contradictory approach by saying: "…cinema provides an active and mobilizing element, which stimulates participation in the revolutionary process. Then, it is not sufficient to have a moralizing cinema based on harangue and exhortation. We need a cinema that promotes and develops a critical attitude. But how to criticize and at the same time strengthen the reality in which we are immersed?"
Commenting on his style, Gutiérrez called himself "a man who makes criticism inside the revolution, who wants to ameliorate the process, to perfect it, but not to destroy it".
In the following decades, Gutiérrez divided his time between making his own films and mentoring promising young filmmakers through ICAIC.
In 1972 and 1976, respectively, Gutiérrez completed two historical feature films, Una pelea cubana contra los demonios (A Cuban Fight Against the Demons) and La última cena (The Last Supper). Both set in Spanish colonial Cuba, the films study contradictions and hypocrisy in Cuba's past of imperialism, religion, and slavery.
Hasta cierto punto ( Up to a Certain Point ) (ez's wife, Mirta Ibarra.) The film underwent some censorship and remains to this day considered by Cuban critics one of his lesser works, though it is still highly regarded. The director himself said jokingly that the film was only successful "up to a certain point"
In the early 1990s, Gutiérrez fell into ill health, forcing him to co-direct his last two films with his friend Juan Carlos Tabío. The first, Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) (1993) became the first Cuban film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The film's story centers on the oft conflictory relationship between a committed Marxist student and a flamboyantly gay artist. Gutiérrez's final film, Guantanamera , (1994) uses traditional elements such as an ensemble cast and romantic comedy to take a more subtle approach to Gutiérrez's old targets: underdevelopment and bureaucracy. The film won the Silver Bear - Special Jury Prize at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.
Titón, as he was known to his friends, died in Havana on April 16, 1996, at age 67. He is buried in the Colon Cemetery, Havana.
Three of Gutiérrez's films—Death of a Bureaucrat, Una Pelea Cubana contra los Demonios, and Los Sobrevivientes—were preserved by the Academy Film Archive in 2017 and 2019.
Cinema arrived in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century. Before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, about 80 full-length films were produced in Cuba. Most of these films were melodramas. Following the revolution, Cuba entered what is considered the "Golden age" of Cuban cinema.
La muerte de un burócrata is a 1966 comedy film by Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea which pokes fun at the Communist bureaucracy and red tape and how it affects the lives of the common people who have to waste time and overcome hurdles just to get on with their ordinary lives.
"It is, as the title suggests, a satire on bureaucracy and red tape, but also on a lot of other sad and mediocre things which we have to put up with at times. However, I have to say that I don’t have much faith in the efficacy of satire as a “driving force of history.” When making the film we thought: we are laughing at the bureaucrats, but then the bureaucrats will come and not only will the film make them laugh, but they will laugh at themselves."
— Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Director’s Statement, La Biennale di Venezia
De cierta manera is a 1974 Cuban romantic drama film. Directed by Sara Gómez, the film mixes documentary-style footage with a fictional story that looks at the poor neighborhoods of Havana shortly after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The film illustrates the history before the background of the development process in Cuba. It demonstrates how tearing down slums and building modern settlements does not immediately change the culture of the inhabitants. Gómez completed filming with Mario Balmaseda and Yolanda Cuellar just before her death; technical work was finished by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Julio García-Espinosa y Rigoberto López before its posthumous release.
Memories of Underdevelopment is a 1968 Cuban drama film written and directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. The story is based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes entitled Inconsolable Memories. It was Alea's fifth film, and probably his most famous worldwide.
Edmundo Desnoes, is a Cuban writer author of the novel Memorias del subdesarrollo, a complex story depicting the alienation of a Cuban bourgeois intellectual struggling to adapt to the process of the Revolution staying on the island after his family decides to leave the country. He originally called the work Inconsolable Memories in the first English edition. The book was adapted in 1968 into the seminal Cuban film of the same title Memorias del Subdesarrollo by the director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the name by which it is also known in English.
Santiago Álvarez Román was a Cuban filmmaker. He wrote and directed many documentaries about Cuban and American culture. His "nervous montage" technique of using "found materials," such as Hollywood movie clips, cartoons, and photographs, is considered a precursor to the modern video clip.
Jorge Luis Sánchez is a Cuban film director. He was a founder of the Federación Nacional de Cine Clubes de Cuba - the Nacional Federation of Cine Clubs of Cuba.
The Havana Film Festival is a Cuban festival that focuses on the promotion of Latin American filmmakers. It is also known in Spanish as Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano de La Habana, and in English as International Festival of New Latin American Cinema of Havana. It takes place every year during December in the city of Havana, Cuba.
Juan Carlos Tabío was a Cuban film director and screenwriter. His film Strawberry and Chocolate (1994), which he co-directed with Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, won a Silver Bear - Special Jury Prize at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. He has collaborated with director and close friend Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and actors Jorge Perugorría, Vladimir Cruz and Mirta Ibarra in several films.
Jorge Perugorría Rodríguez is a Cuban actor, film director and painter. He is well known for his part as Diego in Strawberry and Chocolate (original title in Spanish Fresa y chocolate. He recently acted in Steven Soderbergh's Che, with Benicio del Toro and in the original Netflix series Four Seasons in Havana. He lives in Santa Fe, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana, with his wife Elsa Maria Fuentes de La Paz and their four children.
Sara Gómez aka Sarita Gómez was a Cuban filmmaker. As a member of ICAIC during its early years, she was one of only two black filmmakers in attendance. She was the institute's first and for her lifetime, Cuba's only, woman director. Gómez is known for her first and final feature-length film De Cierta Manera (1974). Gómez was a revolutionary filmmaker, concerned with representing the Afro-Cuban community, women's issues, and the treatment of the marginalized sectors of society. Sara Gómez's filmmaking identifies the problems of colonialism, specifically experienced by previously marginalized communities who were unaware of the possibilities of a better future. "Exposing the roots of the world that had to be left behind and demanding the arrival of the future: her mission was to allow these communities to understand the process of what was happening in their lives, their needs, and possible departures." Gómez's work highlighted inequalities of social class, as well as racial and gender discrimination. She used the lens of her camera and ethnographic knowledge to narrate histories about everyday lives in revolutionary Cuba.
Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (Spanish), abbreviated EICTV - - was founded on December 15, 1986, by Colombian journalist and writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cuban theoreticians and filmmakers Julio García Espinosa and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Argentinean poet and filmmaker Fernando Birri, all four former students of the film school at Cinecittà in Rome, and amongst others, Brazilian filmmakers Orlando Senna and Sergio Muniz. It is located in San Antonio de Los Baños, Artemisa Province, Cuba.
The historiography of Haitian cinema is very limited. It consists only one double issue of the journal of the French Institute of Haiti Conjonction, released in 1983, devoted to film; a book by Arnold Antonin, published during the same year, entitled Matériel pour une préhistoire du cinéma haïtien ; and an article by the same author in the 1981 book Cinéma de l’Amérique latine by Guy Hennebel and Alfonso Gumucio Dagrón.
Memories of Overdevelopment is a 2010 Cuban film. Written and directed by Miguel Coyula, the story is based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes, also the author of the 1968 classic Memories of Underdevelopment. This independent film was produced by David Leitner and features Cuban actor, Ron Blair as the lead character. It is the first Cuban dramatic feature film with scenes filmed both in Cuba and the United States. After its world Premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, it garnered several awards and honors. The International Film Guide described it as one of the best films Cuba has produced.
The Last Supper a 1976 Cuban historical film directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, produced by the Instituto Cubano del Arte y la Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) and starring Nelson Villagra as the Count.
The Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos was established by the Cuban government in March 1959 after the Cuban Revolution. Its prominent members are Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Julio García Espinosa, Alfredo Guevara and Santiago Álvarez.
Camilo Vives was a Cuban film producer. He produced more than forty Cuban films during his career, including Lucía, released in 1968, and Fresa y Chocolate in 1994.
Reynaldo Agustín Miravalles de la Luz, known as Reinaldo Miravalles, was a Cuban actor residing in Miami.
History of a Cuban Struggle Against The Demons is a book written by ethnologist Fernando Ortiz Fernández, published in 1959 by the university of Santa Clara city: Universidad Central de Las Villas. In this voluminous essay, the author explores the colonial history of the town of Remedios.
Gloria Victoria Rolando Casamayor, known as Gloria Rolando, is a Cuban filmmaker and screenwriter. Her career as a director spans more than 35 years at the Cuban national film institute ICAIC, and she also heads Imágenes del Caribe, an independent film-making group. Her films, such as Reshipment (2014), characteristically document the history of people of the African diaspora.