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More Artists? Counterrevolutionaries? Speak Up For Their Freedom (II)

More Artists? Counterrevolutionaries? Speak Up For Their (II) /
Angel Santiesteban
Posted on December 19, 2015

The latest: the government’s reaction

In the midst of the Assembly of the G-20 (as a group of twenty film
directors call themselves), while the filmmakers debated the need for
the approval of a Film Act and continued to denounce the hairy hand of
censorship with Abel Prieto as its visible creator, as recently happened
against Juan Carlos Cremata, a scream alerted that State Security was
trying to expel one of those present.

It was Eliecer Avila, who was attending as a member of the general
public until he was discovered by an agent of the regime. When the agent
entered the room to expel him, he was rebuked by some of those present,
although most preferred, as usual, to keep silent, because they knew
that he was one of those shadowy figures who swarm cultural institutions
and is responsible to pursue, monitor and warn them, and to make them
regret their “mistakes” later on.

Everyone in the room stood up and approached the door where the official
from ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry) and the
agent of the State Security pressured Eliecer to leave the room, telling
him that his presence stained what they were trying to build there.

Eliezer said he did not understand their attitude as he stayed quietly
in the audience and had not even spoken about what was discussed there.
The “segurosito” –little security guy — (he wasn’t even five feet tall)
responded publicly that he (Eliezer) was a counterrevolutionary and
offended them with his presence at that cultural space. Eliezer defended
himself saying that he was a revolutionary; his wife supported him,
saying that “they were revolutionaries.”

By that time, I had managed to approach and I said it was me who was not
“revolutionary”, so before removing Eliezer they would have to remove
me. Many filmmakers were amazed at the impudence with which the censor
appeared before them as they debated how to end censorship. Freelance
Luz Escobar, berated him to read his name and the position he
occupied in the ICAIC, to which he replied, “Everyone here knows me.”

Finally, Eliecer, despite assuring he was revolutionary, which didn’t
matter to either the “seguroso” nor the ICAIC-official, refused to leave
the room and the meeting continued with those present on their feet.
They agreed, through voting, try to reach a bridge of dialogue with the
pertinent state authorities.

It is unfortunate that once again they usurp spaces from artists,
because only they had the right to ask Eliezer to withdraw from the room
if they felt he should not be present. I guess State Security will
demand that the next Assembly of the G-20 will take place behind closed

However, looking at the gains from these troubled waters, I think that
the presence of independent journalists has alerted the dictatorship to
an understanding that the issue of the filmmakers is getting out of hand
and becoming international news, and although their media prohibit
publishing that information, they can not prevent us, independent
bloggers, from doing it.

Hopefully our presence there has forced the dictatorship to accept that
they must negotiate with the G-20 to restore what belongs to them in
their own right: freedom of creation, something that never should have
been seized with the justification of making a “revolutionary” cinema.

I thought I had finished recounting the events at the Assembly, but
something told me I should wait; we could expect some reaction after
that altercation. And this December 3rd, TV reported a meeting of the
plenary of the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba),
led by the government firefighter Abel Prieto, where they pledged to
“not allow artists and their spaces to converge with the

Abel Prieto and

It was the stubbornness I expected from State Security, the Communist
Party and the leadership of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba;
the coherent response of the dictatorship to a dilemma that is getting
out of hand.

I am sure that this time the “counterrevolution” which is how they call
us, the ones who are fighting peacefully for freedom and democracy, will
push for the necessary dialogue between filmmakers and dictatorship to
finally take place.

Last minute phone call

I received an anonymous call from a “concerned” person about my likely
attendance at the inauguration of the New Latin American Film Festival.

Angel: Hello, -I said.

-Unknown: Santiesteban?

Angel: Yes, speaking.

-Unknown: I am calling to give you advice -says the enigmatic character

Angel: -Ok, I am listening – I insist.

Unknown: -Just to tell you, you will not be welcome at the opening of
the Film Festival.

Angel:-That does not sound like an advice, is seems more like a threat.

Unknown:-Take it as you want, but don’t regret it later.

Angel:-I will be present anywhere I please -I say upset.

Unknown:-Do not think that we will again allow you to interfere with
your presence as you did at the “Fresa and Chocolate” meeting room. We
do not want you at the Karl Marx Theater, neither at the opening nor at
the closing.

Angel:-Well, you do your part that I will do mine. -and I hung up.

I did not want to go anyway, but it mortifies me they want to manipulate
their instruments of fear.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, “on probation”

Translated by: Rafael
17 December 2015

Source: More Artists? Counterrevolutionaries? Speak Up For Their Freedom
(II) / Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba –

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