i4films: Telling Cuban stories

Inti Herrera and Reymel Delgado have worked in the audiovisual world for some 20 years. As well as individual projects, they shared others up until 2019, when with the creation of the Registry of Independent Film and Audiovisual Creators, they decided to come together to form their own production company: i4films.

Inti, a graduate of the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television, and the Faculty of Audiovisual Media of the University of the Arts (ISA), and Reymel, who is self-taught, are agreed that their strength lies in their human capital.

“Our team is composed solely of producers (currently eight). We don’t have our own equipment. We believe one of our strengths is the training of i4films members. We have specialists in diverse areas of production, and are capable of carrying out several projects at a time, of all kinds, no matter the complexity. We love what we do and we make an honest living from it. We have become more like a family than a work team. Beyond that, everything else is a plus.”

The portfolio of i4films consists of over 100 works, including documentaries, web series, feature films, experimental shorts, and “a long list of etceteras,” as they themselves state.

“Above all, we want to make honest films, no matter the theme. Our only commitment is to the work and the veracity behind it. We like challenges. We are particularly excited by large-scale projects, but we don’t rule anything out. For us, all are important.”

About a year ago, i4films formed part of the first co-produced feature film, a joint venture between Independent Creative Groups and the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), which premiered in Havana’s movie theaters.

“Right now, there is a friendly relationship of constant dialogue with the institution. The feature film “Cuentos de un día más” (Tales of Another Day) was born of this recent synergy with ICAIC and in reality, it’s the first co-production between the institution and several independent groups. It shows what can be achieved when a range of audiovisual media figures come together. We are happy with this relationship and the promotion of so many production companies and projects, following the creation of the Fondo de Fomento (Development Fund). This space has been conquered and today you can appreciate a harmonious scenario, and at the end of the day, it is Cuban film that benefits.”

According to these producers, these experiences demonstrate a new configuration of the audiovisual media scene in Cuba, with a rapprochement between institutions and independent creators. However, there remain many challenges to overcome.

“In practice, although we are nominally recognized by government institutions through Resolution 373 of the Ministry of Culture, many ignore us and seek to perpetuate old economic relations that leave these groups out. It’s a long road, and a lot of patience is required in order to gradually transform and change all these vestiges of the recent past.

“In the Cuban film context, an avalanche of new titles should begin to shake things up, which will certainly bring with it a very positive stage. But it would be absurd to simply take for granted what’s been achieved so far; there is much more to be done. We need to ensure that this linkage between the entire system that makes up the film world, from production to screening, exists in a modern form, in the most horizontal and diverse way possible. Vertical linkage, by which there is an Institution-Studio-Exhibitor no longer works. We need to recover our presence in the international arena, take Cuban film to different markets, festivals, showcases, and participate in every possible exchange. We can’t forget that we are peripheral film, so its important to consider all possible settings.

Careful with their words, committed to their project, and proud of what they have achieved in a short space of time, and amid a pandemic, these young creators note that they will always been interested in telling stories without excessive tact.

“Cuba is our world, the imaginary, the real. Cuba’s story always has to be told. It is our luxury to have a national film industry. To see an image, or a story of a Cuban street in film or on television or online, is a right we fully enjoy. A country without an image doesn’t exist, as Julio García Espinoza reminds us. As such, perhaps, without realizing it, we are part of a strategic sector. We don’t exercise self-censorship and we always seek to discuss everything, offer honest films, without positioning ourselves at any extreme, without separating ourselves into groups. Always showing the two sides of the story and assuming the good and the bad, the lessons. Cuba needs film without manipulations or pressures, from any side. Here there are good and bad things. The narrative is never a single story.”

Many experts agree that although there were young people interested in making different kinds of film, parallel to those produced by ICAIC back in the seventies, it was not until after the year 2000 that the cinematographic field witnessed a favorable diversification. This has increased in recent years, with the prevalence of independent productions in the Cuban film industry. The current context poses challenges and opportunities for independent creators. But if there is one thing the guys at i4films agree on, it’s that Cuban film benefits from all of this.

“We have a rich film history, which has seen dry spells and other more productive periods, as is normal. Through our modest efforts, we would like each Cuban short, feature, or documentary to have the same possibility and scope as audiovisuals in the rest of the world, respecting the stories, the discourses; understood as an expression of creative freedom that cannot be limited. We have a responsibility to fight to open up new paths and ensure that Cuban cinematography transcends borders. The responsibility to tell Cuban stories.”

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