Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga’s political drama “Santa y Andres” has been yanked from competition at the 18th Havana Film Festival New York, which runs from March 30 to April 7.
Lechuga only discovered this when he noted a change in the festival website, which now relegates the film to a special presentation, despite previous announcements listing it among the pics in competition.
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.
Ironically, the festival had bestowed an award on Lechuga’s script for the drama two years ago. An article in the state’s official blog said the “Santa y Andres’” plot about the political censure of a homosexual intellectual in the ‘80s “highlights political persecution and aggressions that never took place on the island; it’s rewriting history.”
This is not Lechuga’s first run-in with ICAIC, which also controls Cuba’s cinemas. His debut feature “Melaza” (Molasses), which turned on the social decline of a sugar town that has had its mill close down, did not please ICAIC. It asked Lechuga to remove any mention of ICAIC’s collaboration in the credits. “ “Melaza” was released in Havana in one small cinema for around one week,” said Claudia Calvino, Lechuga’s producing partner in 5th Avenue Prods.
Not surprisingly, “Santa y Andres” has not screened in Cuba. “We’ve only been able to show it to a few friends at home,” said Calvino.
“We haven’t closed any sales yet but it has been doing the festival circuit, “ said the film’s worldwide sales agent Alfredo Calvino of Habanero Films who lists the film’s upcoming participation in more than a dozen festivals. While there are no formal ties between ICAIC and the Havana Film Festival New York, the institute has facilitated some films and festival travel for Cuban filmmakers. However, as more Cuban films are being made independently from the cash-strapped film org, including “Santa y Andres,” the festival has relied less on the institute. The programming change came after festival president Carole Rosenberg received a call from ICAIC. It is set to make an official statement later today.
In a statement on Facebook, Lechuga said: “ “Santa and Andres” has traveled to the festivals of Toronto, San Sebastian, Chicago, Zurich, Geneva, Dominican Republic, Cartagena, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, Miami, Punta del Este and many others, and at no time have we ever done or said anything against Cuba.”
“I’m not at war with anyone, I just made a movie and it took me a lot of work to do it, now nothing and no one is going to erase it. Since my first meeting on October 14, 2016 with the president of ICAIC, I have not given any interviews to discuss what happened, “ he continued. “If this is how they treat those who behave well, I don’t understand anything,” said Lechuga, who’s at the Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival where the film is in official competition.
“I, Carlos Diaz Lechuga, love Cuba; I smoke cigars, I like the beach, and I have traveled the world. I don’t need to bear this type of treatment. Now I’m going to continue to defend my film and accompany it wherever I can.”