Memories of Overdevelopment

Memories of Overdevelopment (Memorias del Desarrollo) by Cuban-American filmmaker Miguel Coyula was awarded the first Havana Star Prize for Best Picture at this year’s Havana Film Festival New York. The Havana Star for Best Director went to Puerto Rican filmmaker Rafi Mercado for Miente(Lie), and the award for Best Screenplay was won by writer-director Ray Figueroa for the Guatemalan filmLa Bodega (The Warehouse). A Special Jury Mention went to the Chilean film Huacho, directed by Alejandro Fernandez. The ‘Havana Star’ prizes were designed by Cuban artist Yoan Capote.

Memories of Overdevelopment had its world premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received a range of reviews. Variety called it an “unfortunate” follow-up to Tomas Gutierrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment, predicting that “Latin American response is likely to be hostile,” but the Hollywood Reporter saw it as “thoughtful and cinematically bold,” a “highly personal distillation” of the Cuban revolution and its effect on the film’s protagonist, a disillusioned intellectual.

Accepting the HFFNY Best Picture award, Coyula declared that winning it was “a testament to a jury that is willing to take the same risk I took as a filmmaker.” He was pleased that the film had “a very intelligent reception from the audiences as well, which was equally amazing.”

The festival opened with the 2009 Cuban hit Los Dioses Rotos (Broken Gods) by Ernesto Daranas, a contemporary re-envisioning of Carlos Felipe’s play Réquiem por Yarini. The opening night screening was attended by two of the film’s stars, Silvia Aguila and Hector Noas, members of the first Cuban delegation to attend HFFNY in several years. Other delegation members included Susana Molina and Rosa Maria Rovira of the Cuban film institute, ICAIC; Juan Carlos Cremata and Iraida Malberti, directors of El Premio Flaco; Ian Padron, director of the closing night film, Eso Que Anda (Van Van Fever), a documentary about the legendary Cuban music group; and veteran director Enrique Pineda Barnet.

The mini-retrospective of Pineda’s films were a festival highlight, especially the discussions with the audiences following the films. At the screening of his 1989 film La Bella de la Alhambra (The Belle of the Alhambra), Pineda told the audience about the challenges of set-dressing and costume design for a historical film in Cuba, and how he and his crew—largely family—solved the problems. “We knocked on doors,” he recalled, “especially of old people” in the hunt for the glassware, fabrics, and other family heirlooms that would evoke Cuba in the 1920s. Pineda’s most recent film, Anunciación, about the reunion of States-side Cubans and their families, was also shown.

This year’s Festival also featured several special events, including early April screenings at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, the Queens Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A panel discussion at NYU explored the impact of copyright and intellectual property rights issues on Latin American and US filmmaking. More than 45 films were shown in this year’s program, which broke previous attendance records.