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Carlos Lechuga Pulls ‘Santa & Andres’ From Special Presentations at Havana Film Festival New York (EXCLUSIVE)

Fest had unilaterally shifted pic from official competition slot

Upset by the 18th Havana Film Festival New York’s (HFFNY) “unilateral” decision to shift his film from official competition to a special presentation instead, Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga has completely pulled his political drama “Santa & Andres” from the fest.

“When we agreed to grant the New York premiere of “Santa & Andres” to the HFFNY, we did so based on specific participation terms that were negotiated between both parts,” Lechuga said in a statement.

“Those terms cannot be modified unilaterally. After being confirmed in more than 30 film events worldwide, the decision whether or not to screen our film in a festival that does not consider us worthy of joining the list of select titles in its main competition slate is totally ours to make,” he stated in a declaration signed by himself, his producing partner Claudia Calvino and his sales agents Alfredo Calvino and Patricia Martin of Habanero Film Sales.

The response came after the festival’s non-profit founding org, the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLFC), issued the following explanation for its decision: “As cultivators of cultural diplomacy we try our best to remain as apolitical as possible and avoid controversy. We believe that, given the highly-politicized publicity surrounding “Santa & Andres,” it would be a conflict of interest to include it in competition for the Havana Star Prize.”

In December, though initially selected, “Santa y Andres” did not screen at the 38th Int’l Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana after it was rejected by fest backer ICAIC, Cuba’s state-run film institute, for its storyline on an unlikely friendship between a gay novelist under house arrest and the revolutionary peasant woman sent to keep an eye on him.

Lechuga’s Cuban-Colombian-French co-production recently won both Best Ibero-American Fiction Feature and actress for Lola Amores and a Premio Maguey Special Mention for male lead Eduardo Martinez at the recent Guadalajara Int’l Film Fest, which wrapped March 17. A week before, both leads picked up a Best Performance award at the 34th Miami Int’l Film Fest which announced its winners on March 11.

The HFFNY runs from March 30-April 7.

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