Absolved by History: On the Aesthetics and Ideology of History in the Cuban Film Institute

John Mraz


History has been a central pillar in the ideological project of the Cuban Film Institute throughout its existence.1 Three months after the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959, the first cultural act of the new government was to create ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos). The law founding the film institute asserted -in its only reference to subject matter or genre forms -that, “Our history is a veritable goldmine of themes and heroes capable of cinematic incarnation, which will serve as a fountain of revolutionary inspiration, culture, and information.” 2 . Twenty years later, a long essay celebrated ICAIC’s anniversary by extolling the various interconnections of film and history , and concluded that the latter was the emotional well-spring of Cuban cinema.3 Shortly before the 20thanniversary , the greatest of the Cuban directors, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea summed up the priority accorded history in the film institute by stating. “Every foot of film we shoot is marked, in the final instance, by a concern with history.

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