Joel del Río

Joel del Río

Periodista, crítico, ensayista y profesor de los temas relacionados con el cine y el audiovisual, cubano y extranjero. Ha escrito varios libros relacionados con los temas que mejor domina. Aspira a seguir siendo alguien que mantenga los ojos abiertos a la comprensión y la tolerancia incluso en la oscuridad, el extravío y la ira.

Cuban cinema: independence vs competition? (+Podcast)

What does Cuban independent cinema consist of, how far does it go and what seems to be its immediate destination? The answers to these questions, very timely regarding the launch of the long-awaited Fund for the Promotion of Cuban Cinema, are answered by film critic Joel del Río in his podcast “Pensando en audiovisual” (Thinking in audiovisual) on the OnCuba Digital Channel.

Joel del Río. Still from the series “Selfies. Rostros en pandemia,” by Arturo Santana.

My right to consternation: chronicle of a COVID-19 positive

That Monday in March I gave my class at the Faculty of Art of the Audiovisual Media, and then we students and teachers were informed that classes were suspended until further notice. That same day they came to get me from the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and TV (EICTV) to give a workshop on film genres in the production chair, and replace a foreign teacher who could not come because of the ravages of the pandemic in Spain. During the following weekend, several students showed symptoms and were detected as positive, thus the teacher was classified as a suspect and sent into isolation, restricted to his room at the school. On the afternoon of April 2, my PCR tested positive. I was taken that same day, at full speed, to the Naval Hospital. Not only my entire family, but also part of the work team of the television program Te invito al cine, which I went to record on Saturday March 28, just after the conclusion of the workshop at the EICTV, were part of my chain of contagion, and they went into confinement in the Lenin school or in Casablanca. The anguish began that...

La obra del siglo, de Carlos M. Quintela

Festival of Young Filmmakers with critical nostalgias

The fascination with the past has never been exclusive to the elderly. It is so inherent in human beings like tendency to draw assumptions about the future. The harmony between the credible testimony and demands of audiovisual language, as well as the combination of intimacy and historic breath is verified at least in the feature film which was the porch to ICAIC Festival of Young Filmmakers and four documentaries included in competition. Both La obra del siglo, directed by Carlos M. Quintela, as La paz del futuro (Leonardo Rego), El retorno y el fin (Yoel Suárez), Nostalgia de trovadoras (Alberto Santos) and Los amagos de Saturno (Rosario Alfonso Parodi) boldly face the challenges of a so fickle, illustrious (and abused) genre as the historiographical and archive documentary, to restitute memories, give little known reasons, persuade or worry the viewer . La obra del siglo begins with spatial, thematic and temporal locations that allow the viewer to get in tune: "This story takes place in the Electro-Nuclear City (CEN by its Spanish acronym), residence built for future workers of Juraguá Nuclear Plant ". One hour and thirty-five minutes later, the epilogue, which I refuse to tell you here and now, appears...

Photo: Alexis Rodríguez

Isabel Santos, an actress in four chapters

With a vast record, which allows her to move from comedy to tragedy, and play elegant or vulgar women, and express misery, selfishness, dedication and lack of interest, Isabel Santos is considered one of the best Cuban cinema and TV actresses especially now that it just been premiered Vestido de Novia, by Marilyn Solaya, and La pared de las palabras is about to be released, in which she returns to Fernando Perez’s cinema after her stellar or controversial performances in Clandestinos (1988) and La vida es silbar (1998). Isabel Santos, like the great Russian actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov, the one who starred in some classics of Soviet cinema and the series Diecisiete instantes de una primavera, believes that actors have wrinkles on the forehead and many wounds in the heart, by dint of tears required by their characters. Isabel was born actress, and in cinema or television she faced the cameras, and most of her characters, as if her life depended on it. She devoted herself first to television, where she became a kind of myth from her earliest roles on the series Pasos hacia la montaña and Algo más soñar. These different, tragic characters, all coming from a golden age...

Foto: Ben Davis

Eglinton comes out onto 23 rd Street

"Cities do not respect those who cannot create, but growling," Martí wrote in Patria newspaper on August 20, 1892. And designer Lázaro Bermúdez and art historian Daymi Coll, who conceived from Toronto, Canada, more precisely from an apartment at the intersection of Eglinton and Spadina streets, a website, a site devoted to mysticism and everyday life in the Cuban capital has never lacked creativity. Daymi and Lazaro understood that the image of the city where they both were born and raised should not be built under partial and sectarian beliefs, and they decided to design, supply and place into circulation, from Eglinton, a project covered in that other Marti's thought, also made out of Cuba, regarding "the corner of the house is the best, with the majesty of free thinking, and the moderate treasure of cunning honesty, and a chorus as a friend with a cup of coffee". Lazaro, Daymi and I sat around the coffee to talk at length about what living outside Havana and continue sweating, creating and dreaming of it means. A year ago, when www.havanastreetview.com emerged, I saw you immersed in the foundational enthusiasm and several ambitious ideas. Was it a page more of Cuban nostalgia...

Regreso a Ítaca

Ítaca Padura and Cantet make their premiere in Venice

Return to Ithaca tells the story of five friends who receive Amadeo who returns after living in Madrid for 14 years. Cuban-French film The Return to Ithaca will be released worldwide in the 71st edition of the International Venice Film Festival, to be held from 27 August to September 6 in the city called Pearl of the Adriatic. The film will be part of the side event Venice Days featuring 14 films (whose directors range from the Spanish Alex de la Iglesia to Korean Kim Ki-duk) in contemporary tendency to reinforce alternative proposals to the official competition with films whose merits maybe escaped the discriminator criteria of selection committees. The premiere at a festival class A, Venice, Cannes, Berlin and Toronto style, usually propel the international career of films produced in southern countries with scarce resources and Return to Ithaca is one of those small endeavors, though it is directed by Laurent Cantet , a creator installed for years among the most celebrated in France especially after Entre les murs, titled in Spanish La Clase, winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes after 22 years without the Frenchmen winning the coveted award. Already consecrated, and praised by the authorities of...

Cubadisco 2014: Music for the eyes

I barely have knowledge about the music beyond the four indispensable elementary things to fully enjoy it, in its various genres, from my unskilled perception. Therefore, my approach to the XVIII International Cubadisco Festival, to be held in May 17 through the 25, is mostly related to the visual aspect of an event whose slogan reads in capital letters the consecration to Music, Image and Sound. Moreover, most of phonograms usually contain music videos, documentaries, recorded or in making of concerts, so music is accompanied by explanatory statements, testimonies or representations that combine intimately the audiovisual and musical elements. But before entering this area, it is precise to provide a summary of what was the information about the nominees, which occurred last Tuesday at Tropicana. After the announcement of the six special awards, out of competition, that were to be granted this year, the endless reading or mention of the nominees (usually five) in 46 categories established this year by the Organizing Committee of the event began. It's a real challenge for journalism to summarize and highlight the main parts when the institution itself seems unable to abbreviate and rank, and one list of nominees occupied three sheets from a...

Daniel always championed clever humor

Now that ICAIC’s Young Sample (ICAIC: Cuban film Institute by its acronym in Spanish) imposes its presence, at least for all those related to the Cuban cinema as a whole, this is also the time for recalling, as every year, all that at some point was considered a contribution or a renovation. The Sample dedicates several spaces for remembering the imprint left by recently deceased Daniel Díaz Torres, one of the filmmakers most linked to the work of the youngest, while maintaining a critical spirit, always alert, smart and unprejudiced. The sharp critical style, backed in satire, emerged when Daniel was working under the command of Santiago Alvarez, in the production of 21 editions of ICAIC’s Latin American News Bulletin, during the last five years of the 60’s. When he was interviewed about it, Daniel enjoyed highlighting three editions of the News Bulletin he was in charge of: one called La ventana, which was about a warehouse that stood out for its inefficiency and lack of order; and another two editions about some cafeterias called Los Conejitos, which were characterized by indolence, disrespect and mistreatment.He was mainly interested, as well as in several of his subsequent films, in satiricallydenouncing disorder,...

Portray of the known and the exception of Digna Guerra

Maybe there have been too many Cubans documentaries in the last fifteen or twenty years devoted to making the biography or paying tribute to transcendent figures of the artistic and cultural field. And nothing challengeable comes from the intention of honoring those who deserve it, but these audiovisual apologies were almost always made using overwhelming interviews as almost unique resource, and a fairly conventional use of voiceover, assembly, or camera work limited to talking heads calls . Among the many documentaries dedicated to exalt cultural or artistic worth of a personality, the conflicts inscribed in such resumes were often avoided, and dramaturgical structures clinging to tell more or less significant stories predominate without forgetting, of course, the merits and curriculum of the interviewee. Many Cuban filmmakers seem unknowing that good documentaries go beyond interviews and archive material and that public impact is not only related to reiterate testimonies and performances, in a boring succession when the set lacks of peaks or dramatic curves, problems, suspense, the most elemental critic, or answers subjected to the described artistic career. The problem's not in that there are several testimonies, or that archive images often hinder the discourse rather than illuminate it, the fact...

Marc Anthony and Vargas make headlines in Cuban media

In just fifteen incidents a media swarm, events related to an international pop star and a glory of Cuban baseball, occurred . Several media published the news that Marc Anthony would come to sing in Cuba, and for the immense disappointment of those humming his songs, sources close to the singer clarified, in few hours, that such a visit was never on the agenda of the Puerto Rican singer, through which I guess he distributed tranquility among some Cuban-Americans in Miami who would never forgive him to come to give joy to his fans in Cuba. At about the same days, after the media had accused of indiscipline and disrespect to those attending the stadium, and tacitly to the athletes, by the public quarrel occurred in a baseball game in which Lazaro Vargas, head coach of Industriales team, had an altercation with an umpire, and before thousands, perhaps millions of fans, the heated argument occurred, dominated by the most vile insults the Spanish language has. Quarreling is part of the show in certain sports, but what happened later it is indeed uncommon in Cuba: a letter written by the former third baseman of Industriales, in which he first apologized for...

Flight of the Bumblebee video should win Cuban TV Award

One of the peculiarities of our musical and audiovisual landscape is the tremendous cultural importance that some journalists, critics and the general public give to music videos. There is considerable quantity and quality of a cultural reflections on these short television staging designed to promote a song or artist. And while there are a group that attacks using as a flag the standards of good taste, the elevation and the need to encourage spirituality and organized crusades against sexism , the commonplace and the prevailing vulgarity in Cuban music video , there is another group that comes in defense of those pieces of music and audiovisuals in the name of national identity , the rejuvenation of the TV image, vast contributions to our music scene , and oxygenation of the visual context that the music videos represent. When on November 24-25 the Lucas awards galas take place to choose the best Cuban music videos in its fifteenth edition, some major awards surely confer the ultimate backing up to the exceptional aesthetics of "Flight of the Bumblebee", directed by a group of young and established designers like Raupa , Mola and Nelson Ponce , who undertook a virtuoso reinterpretation of the...

Loose Giraffes in Havana

It's official. ¨Jirafas¨ ( Giraffes), directed by Cuban filmmaker Enrique Alvarez, is part of the national representation in competition for Coral prizes in the upcoming International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, to be held in Havana during the first days of December. It was produced by KA Productions, Galaxia 311, Largasluces Productions and Open Roads Media, and it is one of those paradigmatic movies of a cinema generated outside the official institutions of Cuban film industry. Giraffes, recognized as "intimate film which is developed mostly in one location and represents perhaps the most progressive and realistic segment of recent cinema generated in Cuba," talks about the need of three young characters, two women and a man, determined to find a decent survival, and reaching a consensus of understanding and tolerance in the midst of litigation to take possession of a house where the three protagonists are forced to live. According to the cinematic website Noticine, Giraffes radicalizes Enrique Alvarez´s shooting style, who is known by his previous films which also had an intimate slant, and on couples in crisis, such as ¨La Ola¨, ¨Miradas¨, and ¨ Marina.¨ The website claims that this new feature film means "a triumph of...

Land of fire and ash in love

Although the plot and events of the Cuban telenovela Land of fire are not as hot as its title promises, at least it manages to establish indisputable bridges of communication and ease with hundreds of thousands of viewers convened three times a week, in prime time to sit in front of their home screen. Thus, we can speak of media spectacle with full rights, as is often the plot, the work of interpreters or the attitudes of the characters become the subject of frequent discussions and become part of the everyday life. Such a “state of grace" becomes news as it means a rare privilege in recent times, because previous television products, broadcast in that tim, barely managed to meet regular expectations of entertainment and pleasure . So that should be recognized in the Land of Fire the will to rise , improvement , repair simplicity among professionals who took part in this endeavor , despite the telenovela  lacking completely- some think that luckily , others claim that unfortunately – the fire passions announced by the same title and illegally reinforced by television advertisements and promotions, responsible for raising completely unfounded expectations. What no one can be denied is the...

Melaza with bitter aftertaste

The most recent international success of Cuban cinema is titled Melaza and just arrived in Havana premiere screens after a long wait. Banner of young and independent film productions produced by the 5th. Avenue Productions (in charge of the memorable Juan of the Dead), the film brings together a group of inexperienced film professionals from writer-director, Carlos Lechuga, recently graduated from the International School of Film and Television of San Antonio de los Baños to producers Claudia Calvino and Inti Herrera, editor Luis Ernesto Donas, or the protagonists, Yuliet Cruz and Armando Miguel Gomez. And precisely the actors are a key part of this love story between a man and a woman determined to survive decently, in the difficult circumstances imposed by the closure of the sugar industry. It is difficult to find in the Cuban audiovisual industry another work with such sensitivity for the beauty of the reeds swaying in the wind, the firebreak that divides the greenery, and the palm trees or the small town surrounding the sugar mill which are Cuban primal and atavistic emblems. Also appear the abandonment and ruin of a sugar mill closed indefinitely. As renowned documentary deMoler (2004, Alejandro Ramirez ) but with...

It changes (Cuban cinema) everything changes

At that time, already distant and alien, when some of the most popular songs in Cuba consisted of poems from the spirituality of the author, many chanted behind Mercedes Sosa’s chorus that "it changes everything changes ... and what changed yesterday will have to change tomorrow ... ". And since even dreams and utopias must be reformulated if they are to escape the risk of closure, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) decides to confront dynamic transformations involving urgent changes in operations and legal platform. "Today the Cuban Cinema no longer begins at ICAIC or ends at the Latin American Film Festival-assures filmmaker Kiki Alvarez in an extensive and thoughtful open letter circulated profusely in the Web-we cannot think of it as a journey so short and much less on a single direction, the discussion, I think, should be other than pass through a reflection on the film that is being produced, what conditions and for what it is, social interaction, their creative aspirations, their production and marketing strategies, their preserving its cultural purpose ". With the active and questioning participation of veteran and novice filmmakers, among which are included filmmakers Fernando Perez, Enrique (Kiki) Alvarez, Rebeca...

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