Enrique Pineda Barnet, I Still Expect Surprises

Enrique Pineda Barnet, I Still Expect Surprises


By Pedro Quiroga Jiménez, Photos by Courtesy Artist Archive Personal

You never know what awaits when you go out to play. You never know what can happen in a second."…

With that first stanza of a song by new Cuban singer William Vivanco, Enrique Pineda Barnet targets the theme of family separation in his most recent film La anunciación, starring Verónica Lynn (2003 National Theatre Award), Broselianda Hernández, Héctor Eduardo, Ismael Diego and child Roberto Díaz. Film and video scriptwriter, university professor, journalist, critic, publicist and lecturer, Pineda Barnet has actively participated in almost every artistic discipline from childhood. In 1953 he won the National Hernández Catá Literature Award and the prize at the Cuban Song Festival.

Enrique Pineda Barnet, I Still Expect Surprises

Motives aside, the maker of the most viewed movie in the history of Cuban cinema (La Bella del Alhambra) is an extrovert and possessor of an enviable sense of humour, memorable for its bite and eloquence.

What lessons and marks has the cinema left on you? Thousands. One, very marked, was the documentary made by my compatriot José Massip, called El Maestro del Cilantro, about when I taught in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. I taught people from four years old to adults.

By a trick of fate, some of those children who were my students now live in this city. For example, there's a teacher whose son is a lawyer and who now works with me. That's life's gift. Yesterday's children are now my benefactors. It is an immeasurable treasure.

Life constantly rewards you and gives you gifts. I've never felt punished, maybe because I've behaved myself. I've never hated or been vengeful. And I still expect to be surprised. You are a multifaceted creator and have also been outstanding on the stage.

The theatre was my starting point and my inspiration. I always wanted to be an artist: a singer, dancer, actor, and ended as a movie director. I became a writer and thought I would always be one. I won a national literary prize but life brought me to the movies. It was chance and it wasn't.

Enrique Pineda Barnet, I Still Expect Surprises

When I made the romantic decision to go teach country folk in the mountains, I didn't realize that such a strong vocation for movies was in me and that life was playing a prank. I was appointed as an administrator, an inspector, something that had nothing to do with me and I didn't like it. So I was transferred to the diplomatic corps, which I didn't like either. To escape all that I went to the first place I found. I sought sanctuary at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry. Alfredo Guevara, Julio García Espinosa and Héctor García Mesa welcomed me there and I became a film director by chance.

How do you understand the National Movie Award? It was and is an idea of resurrection. It's curious; resurrection was the theme of my first movie Giselle (1963), which is now a classic. Resurrection was also in another, Soy Cuba (1963), a script that gave me headaches trying to write about people with a different culture and different view of life. It was a disaster when it was screened, both here and in the former Soviet Union. Almost 50 years later it has become a boom; it's another paradox, another resurrection.

A little while ago the Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum of Madrid called me to say that my movie short, Cosmorama (1964) was labelled a forerunner of what is today called video art.

There are many resurrections, large and small, but I tell myself 'I'm old enough to die; maybe the National Cinema Award is the culmination of my life? I've learned a lot of analogy, I like to play with semiotic and multiple interpretations and I've tried to impregnate my life and my work with analogy and paradox.

Enrique Pineda Barnet, I Still Expect Surprises

Did you like Carlos Barba's documentary about your film La bella del...? That's a homage to the making of a film, to La Bella del Alhambra, an appealing work in that it interviewed different people; beginning with me, with Verónica Lynn and with the director of photography, Raúl Rodríguez.

But then it sought Beatriz Valdés in Caracas, Isabel Moreno and Jorge (Tuti) Abello in Miami, and Gonzalo Romeu in México; it used moments of the filming, a trailer, fragments of the songs, of scenes, in all it seems to me a moving documentary, beautiful and intelligent.

Have you thought what you'll do in the next few years? I've thought of several films, in this order: Verde, verde, Nora@dirección equivocada, El beso que no te di and Bolero rosa. I am also thinking of finishing my novel that I've been working on for a long time; it's sort of autobiographical and it's called Se anda buscando a un hombre llamado Máximo. Si lo ve, pídale, por favor, no desaparecer (Looking for a Man Named Máximo. If you see Him, Please Ask Him Not to Disappear). That's the title. Whoever reads it will need a lot of patience and tenacity since it will be very long.