); 16 of the Best Vintage Cuban Movies | Visit Cuba

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16 of the Best Vintage Cuban Movies

By Visit Cuba / Posted January 23, 2012

1.  Death of a Bureaucrat Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1966) This black comedy that lashes out against institutionalized bureaucracy tells the story of a young man’s attempts to disinter his uncle who was buried with a document that his widow now needs to legalize her pension. This was the first great Cuban film of international significance. Special Jury Prize at the 1996 Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Czechoslovakia).

2. Lucía Humberto Solás (1968)

These three tales about three Lucías set in three separate periods that were essential to the formation, consolidation and splendour of Cuban national conscience—1895, 1932 and the early years of the Revolution?reflect the parallel maturing process of Cuban women. Gold Medal at the Moscow International Film Festival, 1969; Golden Globe at the Italian Cinematheque Film Festival (Milan) 1970.

3.  Memories of Underdevelopment Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968) A middle-class intellectual, who has stayed in Cuba after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, faces during those early years a new world he does not seem to grasp. Solid dramaturgy and outstanding acting, it is the most acclaimed Cuban film by national and international critics and was selected among the best 2000 films of all times by the International Federation of Film-Clubs. Based on Edmundo Desnoes’s award-winning novel.

4. A Cuban Fight Against Demons Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1971)

Based on a true story told by Fernando Ortiz in his book, Historia de una pelea cubana contra los demonios, the film shows the climate of superstition, personal ambition and shady relations with pirates and corsairs that went hand in hand with the founding of the first Cuban towns. The documentary-style camerawork in the film comes closer to a more present-day type of fiction cinema. Some of the film’s scenes combined with the actors’ brilliant performance make this one of the most coherent and ‘modern’ artistic achievements of Cuban cinema.

5 The Last Supper Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1976)

Set in 18th-century Cuba and freely based on a true story, the film recreates the tale of a slave owner who decides to instruct his slaves in the canons of Christianity by inviting twelve of them to a re-enactment of the Last Supper, where hypocrisy under the disguise of faith and the ancestral instincts of liberty are brought face to face with each other. The famous supper scene?centrepiece of the film—with its solid dialogues, accomplished portrayals, profound historical research, brilliant acting, meticulous set design, artistic coherence, timely music and bold camera work gives rise to one of the best moments in Latin American cinema of all time. Its numerous awards include the Golden Hugo at the 1976 International Film Festival of Chicago and the First Grand Prix at the 1979 Iberian and Latin American Film Festival of Biarritz.

6 The survivors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1978)

Set in the 1960s, an aristocratic family from Havana seeks refuge in their estate when the revolutionary process adopts a radical position. Their total isolation from the outside world leads them to their material and spiritual disintegration in an evolutional journey that goes from civilization to a state of barbarism. The theme of the closed universe of a house, at times dealt with by European cinema, adopts here a Cuban view of the absurd and extravagance. Notable Film of the year, London Film festival, 1979; Gold Prize, Damascus Film Festival, 1981; Gold Plaque and Ghandi Award, Laceno d’Oro Festival, Avellino, 1981.

7 Portrait of Teresa Pastor Vega (1979)

The crisis of a marriage is accentuated when the husband’s sexist attitude and the wife’s desire to become more liberated clash in this incisive portrayal of Cuban society of the 1970s: a profound insight into prejudice and conventionality. Outstanding performance by one of the screen idols of Cuban cinema, Daisy Granados. Best Actress, Moscow Film Festival, 1979 and Cartagena Film Festival, 1980; Outstanding Film of the Year, London Festival, 1980, among others.

8 House for Swap Juan Carlos Tabío (1983)

Gloria, Yolanda’s mother, swaps their old house in the outskirts of Havana for a modern, larger apartment in Vedado in preparation for Yolanda’s upcoming wedding, but her plans take an unexpected turn. Using the difficulties involved in obtaining a new house in Cuba, this comedy reveals the attitudes of certain archetypal individuals of Cuban society at that time. Successful debut in post revolutionary Cuban cinema of legendary actress, Rosita Fornés. Best Actress Award at the Film, Television and Video Festival, Rio de Janeiro, 1984.

9 Clandestine Fernando Pérez (1987)

Based on real events of urban guerrilla units fighting the Batista regime during the 50s, the film reflects the atmosphere of terror in which these young people fought and overthrew the tyrant, giving up their own lives, without losing the joy of living or the conviction that victory would be achieved. Fernando Pérez made his debut as a director with this film, characterized by convincing dramaturgy, impeccable performances, accurate script and meticulous photography. Corals for Best First Work and Best Actress, International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana, 1987; Golden Catalina for Direction and Best Actor, International Film Festival, Cartagena de Indias, 1988.

10 The Alhambra Beauty Enrique Pineda Barnet (1989)


The story of a vaudeville actress during the 1920s, who asserting herself unscrupulously in the sordid world behind the curtains, achieved fame, and in her old age was nurtured by her memories. Based on Miguel Barnet’s novel Canción de Rachel [Rachel’s Song], it is also an anthology of the best Cuban music of the first decades of the 20th century. A melodrama that is easily seen more than once thanks to its soundtrack music, excellent versions of Cuban vernacular music and the terrific performance of its versatile star, Beatriz Valdés. Goya Award, 1989; Best Actress, Latino Film Festival (New York), 1989; Coral Awards for Soundtrack, Set Design and Setting, International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana, 1989.

11 Supporting Roles Orlando Rojas (1989)

The film’s stories, told in an atmosphere of professional frustration, take place during the rehearsal of a play whose ending reveals the moral weaknesses of the characters while it stresses individual and collective responsibility in their personal as well as national future. Awarded the Bronze Hand at the 1990 New York Latin Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the 1990 Latin American Film Festival of Italy.

12 Adorable Lies Gerardo Chijona (1991)

A make-believe swapping of sexual partners triggers a reflection on hypocrisy, falseness, mediocrity, corruption and the loss of values of certain individuals of Cuban society of the late 1980s. The film plays with the resources of melodrama and comedy of intrigue to reveal the conflicts without attempting to solve them. Coral to Best Screenplay, International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana, 1991; APCLAI Award to Best Screenplay, Latin American Film Festival, Trieste, 1992.

13 Strawberry and Chocolate Tomás Gutiérrez and Carlos Tabío (1993)

A young college student and a homosexual who loves the culture of his country build up a complex relationship in the midst of social prejudices during the late 1970s, early 1980s. The film is an attack on sexual, ideological, political and religious intolerance. Based on Senel Paz’s short story El lobo, el bosque y el hombre nuevo [The Wolf, the Forest and the New Man], the film has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, and is the first Cuban production ever nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign language film.

14 Madagascar Fernando Pérez (1994)

The conflict between a mother and a daughter becomes a study on the lack of communication and on the individual and social after-effects of intolerance and dogmatism. Based on Mirta Yánez’s story Los Beatles contra Durán Durán [The Beatles against Durán Durán], the film was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1995 International Film Festival of Freiburg, Switzerland and the Caligari Award at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival, among others.

15 Life is a Whistle Fernando Pérez (1998)

Set in Havana in the late 1990s, the characters’ dreams, hopes, needs and frustrations are interwoven in an imaginary situation which blurs the line between reality and wishes. Built upon a language of the absurd, the story of each of the characters reveals a constant search for happiness, here and now, and how complicated this can be when destiny is a factor to be reckoned with. Best Spanish Language Foreign Film Goya Awards (Spain) 2000; C.I.C.A.E. Award at Forum of New Cinema at Berlin International Film Festival 1999; Special Mention, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Actress, Havana Film Festival; FIPRESCI Award; Glauber Rocha Award; Grand Coral-First Prize; OCIC Special Award; Radio Havana Award at Havana Film Festival 1999; KNF Award at Rotterdam International Film Festival 1999; Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival 1999; Flaiano Award for Best Foreign Film, Italy 2000.

16 Buena Vista Social Club Win Wenders (1999)

Subsequent to the international success of the best selling and Grammy winning album of the same name, German director Wim Wenders filmed this documentary, a true testimony of the lives of these veteran musicians who achieved universal success when most of their contemporaries had already retired from public life. Recording sessions, unforgettable performances, the charm and unpretentiousness of these popular performers, the atmosphere and colour of the humblest streets and neighbourhoods of Havana are all captured with admiration, respect and above all, sincerity. Wenders’s film was both a box office and critical success, winning numerous awards including Best Documentary at the European Film Awards.

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