Mexican drama opens Cuba Film Festival
By Miguel Hernández
The 28th New Latin American Cinema Festival opened Tuesday in Havana with the screening of Pans Labyrinth, a film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro that artfully combines a magical fairytale with the crude reality of post-Civil War Spain and which kept the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.
The opening ceremony took place at the Karl Marx Theater in Havanas Miramar district with local and foreign celebrities such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and top Cuban government officials attending including Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon, Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, Vice President Esteban Lazo and Omar Gonzalez, president of the Cuban Film Institute.
The Cuban Film Institutes founding director Alfredo Guevara welcomed the audience along with a stellar performance by Cuban pianist Aldo Lopez Gavilan, backed by a band of young musicians including members of the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory.
Guevara highlighted the interest of President Fidel Castro in spreading the best of universal culture and said the staging of the Havana Festival each year is a political commitment that spotlights the continents new found identity.
Pans Labyrinth, selected to open the 11-day Festival, received a prolonged applause at its conclusion.
Set in 1944, and through the eyes of a young girl whose stepfather is a heartless captain, it recalls the tragedy and cruelty of Francos Spain, the country that was Hitlers testing ground and remained under fascism until the dictator died in 1975 and a transition period began.
The Havana Film Festival takes place at 18 theaters around the Cuban capital and includes in its competition full length fiction, documentary and short films, from or on Latin America, as well as a selection from several European countries and Canada and three independent productions about Latin Americans living in the United States.
Unlike other countries where film festivals tend to be commercial affairs with exclusive ticket prices, in Cuba the event maintains the usual ticket price of eight cents, allowing everyone from pensioners to students to attend.