Arte a lo Cubano

Alumbrones, a doc­u­men­tary by Bruce Don­nelly

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPOS -

Grow­ing up in South Africa, film­maker Bruce Don­nelly had al­ways wanted to see Cuba, ro­manced by de­scrip­tions and pic­tures from fam­ily mem­bers who had trav­eled there. When he fi­nally ar­rived in the com­mu­nist na­tion to film Alumbrones, a doc­u­men­tary fea­ture on Cuba told through in­ter­views with 12 con­tem­po­rary artists, the re­al­ity wasn’t so dif­fer­ent from what he imag­ined. “It hasn’t changed much in the last 50-some­thing years,” Don­nelly told Pasatiempo. “I was for­tu­nate in that I got to ex­pe­ri­ence Cuba first-hand and not as a tourist. From the first day I ar­rived, I got to spend time in peo­ple’s homes and got to know them in­ti­mately. Had I just gone as a tourist, I might have missed what it was like to be in the home of a Cuban fam­ily.” Alumbrones screens in the Coron­ado Room of the Santa Fe Con­ven­tion Cen­ter on all three days of Art Santa Fe.

Two of the artists fea­tured in the doc­u­men­tary, Dar­ian Ro­driguez Mederos and Luis Toledo del Rio, are in at­ten­dance, rep­re­sented by Conde Con­tem­po­rary, a Mi­ami-based ex­hibitor with a booth at the fair. The artists are two of four young peo­ple who shared an apart­ment at the time of film­ing as stu­dents of Edel Bordón, also in the film, who taught them paint­ing at the San Ale­jan­dro Fine Arts Academy in Ha­vana. Their in­ter­views were an un­ex­pected sur­prise. “Edel and my­self have come to know each other very well. We’ve be­come great friends out­side of the film. He turns up close to our last day of film­ing and says, ‘I have four young guys who are stu­dents of mine and they’re bril­liantly tal­ented, very smart guys. I highly rec­om­mend that you chat with them.’ On the last day of film­ing we went to their apart­ment. We were blown away by just how in tune they were with ev­ery­thing go­ing on around them. They also pro­vided a dif­fer­ent side to the film which I didn’t an­tic­i­pate go­ing in. They were this other gen­er­a­tion. It’s in­ter­est­ing to com­pare this gen­er­a­tion with other kids their age around the world. There’s a real dif­fer­ence in terms of ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and the in­ter­net, phones.”

Don­nelly, who im­mi­grated to New York City in 2006, where he founded his com­pany Lost Boys Pro­duc­tions, was inspired to do the film af­ter see­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary Cuban art in Bos­ton. “A lot of the artists who ap­pear in the film are some of the first artists whose work I saw on ex­hi­bi­tion,” he said. “They re­ally inspired me. What I liked was that ev­ery artist had a dif­fer­ent style, a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Some were very hu­moris­tic, some were very graphic, a lot of fan­tasy art. I like that a lot of Cuban art is al­most this dark com­edy.”

The film de­picts Cuban artists adapt­ing to the chal­lenges of con­tem­po­rary life in Ha­vana: rolling black­outs in­tended to pre­serve petroleum used for elec­tric­ity, lim­ited ac­cess to art sup­plies, re­stric­tions on travel, and the ef­fects of the U.S. em­bargo. The doc­u­men­tary’s ti­tle Alumbrones ref­er­ences the “un­ex­pected, short-lived bursts of light” that in­ter­rupt long pe­ri­ods of power out­ages on the is­land na­tion. Luis Ro­driguez NOA works mainly at night de­spite the black­outs, cre­at­ing Joan Miró-es­que vi­sions of Ha­vana’s thriv­ing street life. “His work in par­tic­u­lar I have a real pas­sion for,” Don­nelly said. “His stu­dio is in cen­tral Ha­vana, so it’s this chaotic, crazy neigh­bor­hood that just doesn’t stop. There’s noise and peo­ple and traf­fic all the time. It’s chaos, not be­cause ev­ery­one is busy and has some­thing to do but be­cause they’re all look­ing for some­thing to do. What­ever Luis hears or sees or thinks about is on the can­vas, al­most stream-of-con­scious­ness, and he re­ally cap­tures the mo­ment of what­ever is hap­pen­ing around him at the time.” Don­nelly left part of the pro­duc­tion crew’s bat­tery-pow­ered light kit be­hind for Luis to use dur­ing the black­outs. “Re­al­iz­ing the con­di­tions he had to work in at night, I thought, ‘This is crazy. I’m go­ing to leave some of my light kit for him,’ which helped him enor­mously.”

When the film crew ar­rived in Cuba, the per­son who was sup­posed to guide them through cus­toms didn’t show up, leav­ing them to sort out de­tails on their own. From a lo­cal com­pany, Cuba Film

Pro­duc­tions, they learned what to ex­pect, and had to pro­vide de­tails on who was be­ing filmed and where, the con­tent of the film, and what equip­ment was per­mit­ted. “There was a lot I had to learn and fa­mil­iar­ize my­self with and be mind­ful of go­ing in to the pro­ject,” Don­nelly said. “There are cer­tain re­stric­tions and reg­u­la­tions they have there that make film­mak­ing chal­leng­ing. It was not im­pos­si­ble to film there and there are ways to get per­mits and make your­self known, but for sure, it’s a lit­tle bit of a headache.”

Ac­cord­ing to Don­nelly, a lot of the artists fea­tured in the film in­cor­po­rate imag­i­na­tive el­e­ments into their works. Part of the rea­son, as pain­ter Pe­dro Pablo Oliva states in the doc­u­men­tary, his words rep­re­sent­ing an older gen­er­a­tion of artists, is that many Cubans are in the dark as to what’s re­ally go­ing on po­lit­i­cally. “Fidel Cas­tro is very pri­vate about his per­sonal life and his fam­ily,” Don­nelly said. “There’s a fan­tasy about what re­ally is hap­pen­ing in the world around them. They have such lim­ited ac­cess to the rest of the world so they’ve de­vel­oped these fan­tasy ideas, these con­cepts to de­scribe what is be­yond the wall, so to speak. Black­outs, lack of ma­te­ri­als, so much of that kind of thing, they find ways to make work in their fa­vor, whether it’s through the ma­te­ri­als they use or through the kinds of art they pro­duce and the sto­ries they tell. It all comes through in the work.” — Michael Abatemarco

“Alumbrones” screens at 3 p.m. on Fri­day, July 10, and at 1 and 3 p.m. on Satur­day, July 11, and Sun­day, July 12, in the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter’s Coron­ado Room.

Dar­ian Ro­driguez Mederos with a self-por­trait; op­po­site page, top left, Bruce Don­nelly in Cuba; top right, Luis Ro­driguez NOA in Alumbrones; im­ages cour­tesy Lost Boys Pro­duc­tions

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.