The festival continues every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the St. Anthony Main Theater through March 29. This year’s films should be particularly powerful because the festival is being co-curated by ICAIC- the Cuban Institute for Cinematic Art and Industry.
“Connecting this closely with ICAIC gives us a way to get permissions for all kinds of films,” said Anya Achtenberg, a leading member of the Minnesota Cuba Committee. “[It] means that we had help directly from film experts in Cuba about what would be wonderful to show here.”
Working with the ICAIC means that the festival isn’t only connecting to the Cuban arts, but also to the people themselves, Achtenberg said.
The 2010 Census showed there are about 1.8 million Cubans living in the U.S., a number that has grown 44 percent since 2000. Macalester College estimated in 2003 that there were about 4,000 Cubans live in Minnesota.
The Obama administration has made it a lot easier for philanthropy groups to travel to Cuba and for Cuban-Americans to send money back to their families. People living in the communist country in recent years have also gained a few new freedoms, especially in terms of property ownership.
However, Americans generally have misconceptions about what life in Cuba is actually like. For Pedro I. Ulacia Rivero, a Cuban who has lived in Minneapolis since 2008, the festival will give people a chance to see the isolated country in a new light.
“It will open the minds of the world to what the Cuban reality is,” he said. “People here talk a lot about Castro and how people live in Cuba, but what’s the purpose of Cuba?”
Rivero emphasized the absence of discrimination in his home country, describing it as having a “welcoming spirit.”
“In Cuba you can be anything you want,” he said.
Carla Riehle, a leading member of the Minnesota Cuban Committee, thinks that presenting Cuban culture through film could help change Americans’ perceptions.
“It’s not this horrible, scary place,” she said. “Movies are a really good way to expose people to the reality of it.”
Riehle said that art and politics are “inextricably connected” in Cuba, which explains why the films can be both deeply moving and representative of the country.
Each film is followed by a discussion at Pracna on Main, which is next door to the theater and is the oldest restaurant in Minneapolis. Pracna offers a happy hour where you can get domestic taps and micros for $2.65, starting at 9 p.m.
The final film on March 29 will be followed by dancing and live music from the all-Cuban band, Cubanía. A six-film pass costs $40. General admission is $8.50 or $6 for members, seniors, students or children.
Kelsey Shirriff is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.
If you go
The Cuban Film Festival, every Thursday at 7 p.m. thru March 29, St. Anthony Main Theater, 115 SE Main St., Minneapolis, 612-311-4723