Memorias del Subdesarollo

In 1968, Cuban movie screens were shaken by a black-and-white film with a very singular name: Memorias del Subdesarollo (Memories of Underdevelopment). Although its director, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, set the drama in the time between the disastrous Bays of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the missile crisis of the following year, this full-length film was not a propaganda paean to the virtues of the Cuban Revolution. Its main character was a wealthy bourgeois who stays behind when his family leaves for the US, and film’s images were contradictory, with nothing idealized. Forty years later, the young Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula rescued Edmundo Desnoes, the exiled scriptwriter of the original film, and in New York, they began working on his next project: Memorias del Desarrollo (Memories of Overdevelopment, 2010.) The blog CINE CUBANO: La Pupila Insomne (CUBAN CINEMA: The Imsomniac Eye) by Cuban film historian Juan Antonio Borrero published a substantial interview with this independent filmmaker.

In a lengthy conversation with Carlos Velazco, Coyula noted that Memories of Overdevelopment is more autobiographical than Edmundo Desnoes´ previous novel. Its main character is a child of the Revolution, part of the great Cuban demographic diffusion that took place the 1960s. “I was interested in talking about events closer to my generation,” Coyula said in the interview. “This individual was born in the mid-1950s. His intellectual training took place after 1959, so, he was somehow forced to be part of the revolutionary process. But he does not fit either in Cuba or the US, in communism or in capitalism.”

In Cuba, Coyula was best known for his 2003 experimental film, Cucarachas Rojas (Red Cockroaches). In Memories of Overdevelopment, he stuck to his vision of a directorial auteur, taking control of the film’s every element: script, photography, music, and editing. “In a movie like this, if one person makes it in a craftsmanlike way, it can impart a certain unity to the chaos. The disadvantage is that it can take you five years.” Shooting primarily in New York, and in Havana, Paris, and London, the director was able to count on support from private investors. “This is a comfortable way of working because you get some money and can use it in a creative way,” Coyula commented. “For me, this is the only way to do it.”

In presenting the interview in his blog, García Borrero said: “Miguel Coyula´s point of view has coincided with that of Edmundo Desnoes, and with his obsessions: history, the body, the Revolution, and sex.” Memories of Overdevelopment is an excellent opportunity to meet, first-hand, the face of new Cuban cinema.