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Traveling Caribbean Films, Bet for Diversity
At a small office in the Cuban Institute of Film Art and Industry (ICAIC) in Havana, three people bear the responsibility of one of the most ambitious cultural projects in the history of our Americas: the Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase.

This program operating since June 2006, comprises 23 countries in the Caribbean basin. The mere fact that these nations - almost all of them islands divided by historical fatalisms imposed on them for centuries - have agreed in a clearly agglutinating purpose is reason enough for appreciation.

If we add that their promoters strive to cross all frontiers and set their dreams at a global scale, we have to look for something more to offer them than mere congratulations.

The showcase has been chosen as one of the 25 most outstanding projects of the United Nation agency system. And there is more, as its president and main promoter, film director Rigoberto López, and ICAIC's Showcase coordinator, Luis Notario, announce in an interview with Cubanow: What is the balance of the project's first year? I believe that landmarks have been set. One is the Meeting of Ministers of Culture and Cultural Policy Officials held in Trinidad Tobago where the first item in the agenda was acknowledging the results achieved by the showcase. This is also recorded in its Final Declaration.

We can also show very encouraging results, among them the present work coordinated by the UNESCO and UNICEF offices in Cuba to promote what will be the First Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase for Children and Adolescents, to be held in 2008. This project will be officially launched at an international press conference to be held in Havana next January. In December this year we will screen a small sample of films by CARICOM member countries at the Centro Hispanoamericano de Cultura de La Habana, which we expect will be attended by the ministers of Culture and artistic personalities from the region. It will be held in the framework of the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the CARICOM countries.

We can also add that the showcase was recently chosen as one of the 25 most outstanding projects of the UN agency system. As we could see in an exhibition on the Millennium Goals held at the San Francisco de Asis Basilica in Havana, the showcase was chosen because its objectives coincide with the purpose of this world organization in fostering cultural diversity.

When acknowledging this trait, UNESCO decided to submit our program to the meeting of its Advisory Council to be held in Paris, its main seat, next year. I consider this a very significant recognition.

Another outstanding event was the meeting at the National Cultural Foundation of Great Cayman (NCFFG) where we had an exchange with more than 20 young film directors, scriptwriters and producers. Among them was Cayman filmmaker Frank Flowers, who has directed films like Swallow, on the drug mules, and Haven, that are included in our showcase. Flowers, who shares his time between Cayman Islands and Los Angeles, works as an independent filmmaker in the United States and has made himself a name in the Sundance Institute, where he's been widely recognized.

One of the topics dealt with in the event was how to guarantee the continuity of film development in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean region as a whole and our traveling showcase. We also approached ideas on production and training of professionals.

What does the showcase mean for Cuban cinema besides it being a space for showing our films? The showcase has contributed to encourage the cultural links of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean with Cuba, especially in the audiovisual field.

Cuban films can be screened in equal terms with those from Jamaica, Curacao, Haiti or Trinidad Tobago, for example. This is an experience already shared by audiences in 19 Caribbean countries.

In my opinion, the showcase has created new spaces in which we in the Caribbean can find our shared identity. I believe it is important for the showcase to continue highlighting the "Caribbean traits" of Cubans and that Cubans see ourselves in the stories told by other filmmakers in the area.

The thing is for our audiences to find a similarity of traits in the topics and characters and a common poetics that draws us near.

What is the potential of the project beyond the Caribbean? Our starting point is the recovery of the Caribbean Diaspora. That is why we strive to show our films in countries that have traditionally received our people as immigrants, like Great Britain and Canada. This effort makes us attempt to find a greater visibility for films made by Caribbean filmmakers and take them to their audiences wherever they may be. We must remember that we are talking about a cinema traditionally left out by the main world distribution systems. Therefore, the attention that entities with a large international prestige, like the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Hollywood Cinematheque and the Cinematheque in Ecuador, among others, have given us has helped us greatly.

We must mention that our present links with the Organization of Pan-African Filmmakers, that offers us the possibilities of access to the African market, have far exceeded our expectations.

What role has the San Antonio de Los Baños International School of Cinema and TV (EICTV) in Havana played? Since the beginning, the EICTV has provided us contacts with filmmakers in the area, like Asha Lovelace, from Trinidad Tobago, and Suzette Siren, from Belize. Ms. Siren, apart from being a filmmaker, organizes film festivals in her country. The EICTV will have more participation in the future through the training course the Showcase is implementing in the region. For example, last June, at the Culture and Development Forum in Havana, we started to talks that should be conducive to regional programs at institutions such as the Barbados branch of the University of West Indies.

Have we left any topic untouched? We have our greatest challenge right before us. With what we learned in the First Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase as a basis, we are organizing the First Traveling Latin American and Caribbean Film Showcase, with the support of a recently approved Cultural Fund in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.


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