By Liza Foreman
Marking the first time that a group of Cuban women filmmakers are traveling to the U.S. to present their work in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, a new initiative backed by Women in Film, is to showcase a selection of their films for American audiences.
The showcase includes presentations at USC School of Cinematic Arts, Brooks Institute and Miami International University of Art & Design.
The Cuban women participating in the U.S. showcase represent the island’s preeminent female directors, writers and actors. They are the award-winning filmmaker and the head of the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, Marina Ochoa; award-winning Afro-Cuban documentary filmmaker, Gloria Rolando; award-winning feature filmmaker Milena Almira and one of Cuba’s most internationally acclaimed film and theater actresses, Claudia Rojas (pictured).
Honorary hosts include: Annette Bening, Laura Bickford, Jackson Browne, Lisa Cholodenko, Isabel Cueva, Benicio Del Toro, Hector Elizondo, Naomi Foner, Brad Horwitz, Penny Marshall, Mike and Irena Medavoy, Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner, Sean Penn, Shervin and Anahita Pishevar, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon and Andy Spahn.
Scheduled for Los Angeles (March 6-12), New York (March 13-17) and Miami (March 18-25), the showcases will be complemented by panels to offer educational and cultural opportunities for U.S. and Cuban women in the industry, to forge creative and cultural bonds, and to foster the expansion of a dialogue between nations, creating new spaces wherein to share social, historic and artistic female perspectives.
Screenings and panel discussions are being organized by a collaboration of the most prestigious and proactive institutions that provide a place and an infrastructure for women to grow and excel in the film industry, such as Women In Film. Ruby Lopez, WIF International Committee co-chair says, “The industry has become a dynamic global community. The Women In Film International Committee mission is to create programming that offers women the opportunity to express and share their voices. Creating this showcase allows for the exploration and expression of multicultural viewpoints that serve to broaden and deepen the art of telling stories through cinema.”
ICAIC, Cuba’s world-famous film institute has a long history of supporting the work of cutting edge filmmakers and producing an unparalleled body of work. Now, with the inception of the Cuban Women Filmmaker’s Mediatheque, ICAIC is recognizing and supporting the work of Cuban women in the industry. “Cuban women filmmakers have created strong films with significant aesthetic values, that not only raise awareness and inspire action around issues that affect women, but also express a deep penetration into the Cuban culture and contemporary society,” says Luis Notario, Producer/Coordinator of the Cuban Women Filmmakers Showcase and Senior Advisor to the President of ICAIC. “We see this showcase as a unique opportunity to accomplish the long deserved international recognition of their amazing work,” he concludes.
Ellen Harrington, Director of Exhibitions and Special Events for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said: "Over the last three years, the Academy and its International Outreach Committee have been actively working with our counterparts in Cuba, including the ICAIC, to encourage the cultural dialogue between the filmmaking communities in our countries. It is a pleasure to help welcome these pioneering artists to Los Angeles, much as we have been warmly welcomed on our visits to Cuba. We are excited to build on the current momentum for more creative collaborations between us."
The event has already gained the attention and support of key industry figures including Academy Award nominated producer, Laura Bickford. “I am honored and excited to be a part of this historic professional and cultural exchange,” said Bickford. “Having traveled to Cuba for many years, I have gotten to know the Cuban film industry and look forward to hosting these multi-talented and visionary film professionals coming to the US for the first time,” she added.
The Women In Film International Committee, the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC) and the American Cinematheque, in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, New York Women In Film & Television, MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center,Women Make Movies, Miami Beach Cinematheque, and Coral Gables Art Cinema are behind the event.
Sponsors include Shangri-La Entertainment, Sean Penn, the Shervin & Ana Pishevar Foundation, Brad Horwitz, Cuba Travel Services, SDI Media Group, Aris Anagnos, Hector Elizondo, Harvey Vechery,Councilmember Eric Garcetti, and other generous individuals. KPFK Radio is a media sponsor for Los Angeles.