Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute

Tulane University

Cuban Studies Welcomes Noted Film Scholar

March 19th, 2012

By Susanne Hackett and Bianka Ballina

In February 2012, the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute was pleased to bring to the Tulane campus Juan Antonio García Borrero, who hosted a presentation on Cuban Cinema: History, Historiography and New Technologies. A critic and film historian from Camagüey, Cuba, García Borrero is the author of many books on Cuban Cinema and the creator of one of the most important Cuban cinema blogs, Cine Cubano: la pupila insomne.


Ana Lopez translating for Juan Antonio García.

García Borrero’s discussion focused on rethinking the way in which Cuban cinema has conventionally been conceived of and written about. According to García Borrero, the discourse around Cuban cinema has tended to be “ICAIC-centric,” focusing exclusively on the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, or Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry). The first cultural institution of the new revolutionary government, ICAIC was founded in 1959 to promote film as a vehicle for public education and revolutionary thought. Its cinemóviles initiative established mobile projection units that visited remote areas of the country to hold public screenings. By 1965, ICAIC was responsible for all film production, distribution, and exhibition in Cuba. Cuban cinema came to be identified with anti-imperialism and revolution, and film scholarship has tended to frame it either through the institutional lens of ICAIC, or in opposition to it – but always in reference to it.

Juan Antonio García Borrero identifies a new task for scholars of Cuban cinema — namely, to break with the polarizing nature of traditional formulations of Cuban film history and challenge the hegemony of ICAIC as the only valid producer of film in Cuba. Or, as he put it, “hay que revisar el mapa.” His goal is not to erase the perspective of ICAIC, but rather to put it in conversation with more voices, such as the cine cubano sumergido, an overlooked yet pivotal aspect of Cuban film production. According to García Borrero, this “submerged” Cuban cinema includes film produced by key players like the cine-clubs, the exile community, the Army, as well as made-for-TV films and pre-revolutionary cinema. This reformulation of Cuban film history would produce a more holistic understanding of Cuban cinema within its historical context, as a participant and actor in various processes of historical and social transformation in the Island and beyond.


Conversation after the lecture.

García Borrero sees potential for new technologies to challenge traditional ways of thinking about Cuban cinema, and his blog serves as both platform and forum. Technology can help create space for a “culture of debate” around Cuban cinema, fomenting interactivity between diverse voices both old and new. Overcoming the unidirectional constructions of the past will allow for the inclusion of a wider variety of perspectives and the recognition of film production and consumption as a dynamic cultural process.

For more on Juan Antonio García Borrero, visit his blog at http://cinecubanolapupilainsomne.wordpress.com.