Holy Gibara! The International Film Festival that Dreams are Made Of
Photos and text by Heidi Hollinger
It was a magical week. The 14th Annual Gibara International Film Festival did not stop to amaze, not once. From April 16 to 22, 2017, Jorge Perugorría (Pichi), the Festival President, and Rafael Rosales, the Festival Director, put on a heck of a show.
The host country was Spain and with a world-class movie lineup and star attendees like Benicio Del Toro, Victoria Abril, Imanol Arias and Lucas Figueroa, the sleepy seaside town of Gibara -with a population of 73,000 - never slept. How could they, with concerts every night by Cuba’s hottest bands, including Pablo Milanés, who opened the festival, Kelvis Ochoa, David Torrens, David Blanco, Athanai, Alberto Alcalá, Pancho Céspedes, Isaac Delgado, Ivan Lejardi, Andrés Levin and Nube Roja, whose closing concert was a tribute to José Martí. René de la Cruz did an extraordinary job emceeing.
The activities were spread throughout venues across Gibara, which were easy to access as this charming fishing village is tiny and very walkable. There was hardly a car to be seen on the roads, horse-drawn taxis being the main mode of transport, which means the streets are pedestrianfriendly, and an added bonus - the calming effect of less noise and pollution.
Within this intimate surrounding, you are constantly bumping into the same people all day long and by the end of the week, you know everyone. I loved the vibe, it felt like a summer camp for grown-ups.
The festival, which was founded in 2003 by legendary Cuban film director Humberto Solás as the Festival del Cine Pobre (Low-budget Film Festival), has now evolved into El Festival International del Cine or for short FIC Gibara. It still keeps true to its roots as an alternative competition for low-budget films that emphasize the participation of young filmmakers and new technologies but it has taken on a whole new life as people are discovering that it is one of the most original, important and culturally integrated festivals in the world.
The festival has always had a cultural cachet, and this too, is exploding with the best musical talents in Cuba: unique fashion art, dynamic theatre (two thumbs-up to the Chocolate Kid performance), mesmerizing dance shows, international photo exhibits, outdoor street art including larger than life photographic prints by world-class Spanish photo-grapher Bernardo Aja draped along the main street, not to mention the 242 carefully selected films that amazed audiences throughout the week.
Every morning, intellectuals gathered for chats at discussion panels at the Casa de la Cultura, followed by a day full of screening with entries from Cuba, Nicaragua, Spain, Romania, Columbia, Lebanon, Switzerland, Argentina, Italy, Bolivia, Canada, France, Brazil, India and the United States.
Films included 14 feature-length fiction entries, with the grand prize winner La Puerta Abierta (Spain), 15 fiction shorts, with La Costurera (Cuba) for the win, 10 feature-length documentaries, with the compelling biopic Pablo Milanés (Cuba) taking in the prize, 15 short documentaries, with En Contra del Viento (Cuba) being number one. The jury’s choice was Últimos días en La Habana (Cuba).