Cuba si, Cuban cinema no

By DAVID DENBY  |  November 14, 2006

Unfortunately, the only film in this Festival that completely avoids politics I could not watch at all. The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin, the type of disorganized, slovenly farce that is always described as “rollicking,” jumps heedlessly from one place to another without making much of a point, and after 45 minutes of strenuously unfunny and often incomprehensible “adventures,” I mad the unprofessional but soul-saving decision to head for the door. I was unable to see Humberto Solas’s documentary on Haiti, Simparele (1974), or the Fifth Frontier (1975), a history of American domination of the Canal Zone in Panama.

One final point in this depressing report: because of the continued American embargo on all trade with Cuba, no profits form the exhibition of Cuban films in this country return to the source. Instead, they are divided between the Center for Cuban Studies, a New York-based “information” bureau that defends the Cuban Revolution in the United States, and Tricontinental Films, the American distributor for Cuban films. For years this company has been shamefully harassed by a variety of federal agencies, and last April the Justice Department ordered Tricontinental to register as a “foreign agent” and to label all its output – posters and catalogues as well as films – as “propaganda material.” Tricontinental is fighting the order in the courts, but the sad thing is that even if they win, the way the Cuban cinema is going we will hardly need a label to tell us what these works really are.

To Whom It May Concern
With this issue, new Phoenix film editor David Denby makes his official debut. But he’s not new to Hub cineastes: from 1970 to 1973 he was film critic of the Atlantic and, more recently, has written for the Real Paper, as well as for the New York Times, Harper’s, Sight and Sound, Film Quarterly and other publications. He’s edited four of the yearly anthologies of criticism by members of the National Society of Film Critics, and has taught film courses at Stanford. During 1973 he toured Asia for the USIA, lecturing on American movies and journalism. In the accompanying photograph he may be seen hard at work in a packed house analyzing the latest kung fu import. Welcome aboard, David.

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