The Academy of Motion Pictures Is Restoring & Screening Classic Cuban Movies

Lead Photo: 'Una pelea cubana contra los demonios.' Courtesy of Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano.
'Una pelea cubana contra los demonios.' Courtesy of Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano.
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Last fall, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) put together the From Latin America to Hollywood screening series, where they showcased many of the landmark films that have defined Latin American and US Latino cinematic history in the last few decades. Continuing with their commitment to championing and preserving relevant international works, their current focus is on Cuban cinema

In collaboration with the Cinemateca de Cuba, the Academy has helped restored two classic movies by revered Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: 1971’s Una pelea cubana contra los demonios (A Cuban Fight Against the Demons) and 1979’s Los sobrevivientes (The Survivors). Both rarely seen gems will screen back-to-back at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood on Friday, May 11 starting at 7:00PM. Cinematographer Mario García Joya and actress and widow of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Mirta Ibarra, will be in attendance. The director of Havana’s Cinemateca de Cuba, Luciano Castillo, will host the presentation.

The former is a black-and-white period piece set in 1672 as Cuban revolutionaries revolted against Spanish rule, while the other is in color and centers on a wealthy family in the post-revolution era, which refuses to accept the new economic conditions of the island. Los sobrevivientes premiered as part of the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979.

Aside from helming nearly a dozen feature projects throughout his career, Gutiérrez Alea was also one of the co-directors of Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) the first and only Cuban movie to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

To commemorate these screenings, AMPAS has also released a video that explains in detail the significance of preserving these titles and the difficulties that the weather conditions in Havana constituted. Experts note that the heat and humidity in the country are mortal enemies of film stocks, because the material degrades much more rapidly than in drier settings.

The restoration originally took place so that both dramas could be screened as part of Cuba’s Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinomaericano in 2016, in a newly created section named Clásicos Restauradso (Restored Classics). Now, thanks to the unified and dedicated efforts between film professionals in both nations, people in and outside of Cuba will have a chance to experience them for the first time in many years.