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(Film Still: Esteban Insausti’s “Long Distance,” starring Zulema Clares)

This is an an old blog post I never got to publish, and it is mostly ripped off from The New York Times, but given the new American policy shift, I feel it’s an important article to take out of drafts and publish into the ether. The struggle for Cuban filmmakers may take a turn if Obama opens American financial channels (namely crowd-sourcing sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter) to help fund Cuban resident filmmakers.

United States government dedicates millions of dollars each year to programs intended to promote civil society and democracy, yet cuban Filmmakers who are telling everyday life stories through their films, are cut off from this flow of American money. Currently, there is no way for a Cuban filmmaker to access American capital to tell these stories.

Case in point: Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula raised $5,200 on Indiegogo for his independent film but the funds were frozen.

“It’s absurd that we are in the 21st century, and we have no legal framework for independent producers,” said the director Esteban Insausti, whose 2010 feature, “Long Distance,” explores emigration and the trauma of separation. Cuban government does its part in hampering filmmakers, keeping politically provocative movies out of theaters, not recognizing private production companies, and making it hard for filmmakers to obtain permits for, say, filming on the street.

Indiegogo suspended the campaign in August and froze the money after determining that transferring funds to Cuba or a Cuban resident would violate the United States’ economic embargo.

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“It was like someone pulling the rug from under your feet,” said Mr. Coyula, who spoke in English by phone from Havana. “That was when I realized I was really on my own, that making a movie in Cuba is hard because both the Cuban government makes it difficult, and the American government makes it difficult.”

Another barrier for Cuban filmmakers are Film grants. Disqualified from grants from American institutions, crowd funding was the next logical option get films made. “Blue Heart,” which will use newsreels, animé and fiction to tell the story of a failed experiment to create a perfect revolutionary through genetic engineering, will cost about $30,000 to make, he said.

Here is the first 5 minutes of the film:

Another person who attempted to aid filmmakers, Ubaldo Huerta, a Cuban technology expert who lives in Barcelona, shut down Yagruma in February 2013 (a crowdfunding platform specifically for Cuban projects). He shut it down a little more than a year after he started it. Paypal issues were involved.

It is these same restrictions that also prevent Americans from investing in Cuban movies and prohibit Americans from making most films on the island.

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times / Cuban Filmmakers

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(Film Still: “Conducta,” starring Armando Valdés Freire, center, and directed by Ernesto Daranas) Courtesy of HAVANA FILM FESTIVAL NEW YORK

NOTE: Filmmaker Miguel Coyula says if you’d like to help him make his film, email him directly to: migcoyula@hotmail.com