Friday, November 07, 2008




This comment has been removed by the author.

HT Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from?

AB My name is Alejandro Brugu├ęs. I'm a Cuban independent filmmaker. I was born in Argentina, but I'm not Argentinean. My parents just happened to be there.

HT Your Film Personal Belongings has reached much acclaim. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

AB I'm not sure "much acclaim" is the right expression. It definitely has been
much bigger than we expected when we set out to do it. The thing is, three
years ago my producer and me started making this very small, very indie
Film, with a budget so small my producer doesn't even let me say how much it
was. We had to struggle not only with that budget, but also with a country with its very special own rules, with many limitations (including a first-time director!) and somehow we ended up with a film that I considered to be quite enjoyable. At first They tried to censor it, then ignore it, but thanks to some awards we won and some great reviews and a great response by the first Cuban audience that saw it, They had to accept it. So I think the real success of the film was to open a door for independent filmmakers here in Cuba.

HT Would you consider your film an artistic success? Why or why not?

AB I don't really consider it an artistic success. As an artist, I know its many flaws. I had never been behind the camera before in my life. I know I had a great script, and I messed up while shooting it. There are probably no more than two scenes (or shots!), which I'm really happy with in the film. Few of the things I had in mind before shooting were actually accomplished, some because of the budget, some because of my inexperience (and some because I may be a talentless fuck!). I think my greatest success was to use everything I know about films to salvage the mess I shot and end up with a film decent enough. Audiences like it, filmmakers not that much, critics usually like it a lot (except for that damn twist at the end that they're unable to forgive me). Am I happy with the film? Nope. But I must admit it's much better than I deserved! And hey, it has gone to tons of festivals and it was the Cuban submission for the Academy Awards this year! So I really can't complain.

As most filmmakers I know say most of the time, the next one will be the one.
Oh, and as much as I don't like some things about the film as a filmmaker, there is one thing I have to admit: a lot of heart was put into it, and that you notice. It does speak about the situation between Cubans forced to leave the country in an honest way, it's truthful and it shows Havana in a different and loving way.

HT As an artist, what would you say is good art for you? What are the
Characteristics universally?

AB Good art is the one that stays with you forever. I don't think it has anything to do with being deep or shallow. I think it's more about being honest. If you find yourself quoting a film or a book you saw once, thinking about a painting or a picture, it's probably because the artist did something right.

If I knew the characteristics that make art good, I wouldn't be sitting in my living room in Havana. I'd probably be dictating this to an assistant in my yacht or something like that. And I don't think I'd be trying to make art. It's not a recipe. It's just something that grows and needs to get out. It's just a constant struggle to find the way to get it out right.

HT What does it mean to be an independent filmmaker in Cuba today?

AB In means lots of hard work! Pretty much as being a filmmaker everywhere else. I could say that probably we have fewer resources, but I'm sure there are places were they have even less and they're able to make good films. I could point that maybe having more freedom of speech would be helpful, but I'm sure good films have been made under worst conditions.

Being an independent filmmaker in Cuba is just to have to will and the strength to take your idea and fight for it against everything to get it made no matter what, because if you don't you won't be able to sleep nice ever again.

Which, as I said, it's pretty much the same as being a filmmaker everywhere else.

HT What is the relationship of independent filmmaking to the government?
In Cuba today?

AB Well, as I wrote before, currently the relationship between the government and the independent filmmakers is not that bad, and I think my producer and I can take a bit of credit for that. You see, when we first started, the government mostly ignored independent films, and the most they could accomplish was probably to play for a couple of days in a bad theater.

Then happened what was going to happen one day or another. A film came, and it was better than all the movies made by the government that year, and audiences liked it, and critics liked it... and it wasn't theirs. It wasn't theirs to sell, it wasn't theirs to represent the Cuban film industry in film festivals, and it wasn't theirs to take all that credit.

I am lucky enough to be able to say that it was our film. And that now, if a filmmaker wants to make a film without the government, they'll probably offer to help, because they don't want that to happen again.

And, thank god, there are good ideas roaming around and I think we'll be seeing more good Cuban independent films in the not so far future.

HT Do you believe that your work has a social responsibility to it?

AB I didn't believe it until I saw it happen. I mean, everyone that knows me knows I'm a real fuck up. I never tried to make a film with some kind of social responsibility. I just had this idea by observing what happened to most of my friends and the people of my generation, and I tried to speak truthfully about it.

It turned out I did, and I touched a very special theme for us Cubans, which is choosing where do you live your life instead of with whom do you live that life. Most Cubans have someone special that left. It has often happened to me to find members of the audience crying because what I told in my film is their story. It has happened to me in Cuba and out of Cuba. And when I first realized it I freaked out, because I realized I could say things about us that meant something. And I don't think a film can change anything, but it can touch people, and if you do that, people may start to realize some things...

The truth is as long as I make films in Cuba, they'll all have some social issue, because it's impossible to separate us from that.

I've thought a lot about this in recent months. I've been tired of seeing my generation just sit as everything around us goes to hell, and I thought that as an artist it was my duty to be here and make films about this, to help in the only way I can.

But recently my life became pretty much my film, and I ended up being my protagonist, and now I have the person I love living out of Cuba.

So, it's a bit like Sophie's Choice: do I stay here and do what I can do to help as an artist, or do I leave to be with the person I love?

I'm sorry this answer has taken so long, but you have to admit it's not an easy question!

So far, I'm trying to do both.

As an artist, I know I'll never be happy if I know I didn't do everything I could to help things get better.

But as a person, what is that accomplishment good for if she's not with me to share it?

HT Since Raul came to power, what changes have happened in Cuba? What are?
The effects of the hurricanes?

AB It's been less than a year since Raul came to power, so maybe it's too soon to say. I can tell you nothing has really changed, actually. We can legally have cell phones now. Big deal, everyone already had them. We can go to hotels, but does a hotel really make your life better?

I think all the changes we were expecting haven't arrived. And I thing some things have changed for the worst. Fuel, for instance, is now twice as expensive as it was before. I believe we're the fourth country in the world with the highest gas price (more than twice than in the States). And it makes the price of everything go up. So, if everyone earns between 15 and 40 dollars a month, how can you justify that?

But fuel is not the main problems, and those haven't changed.

And the hurricanes made everything much worst. Small towns disappeared completely. There are places in the countryside were people are living in hammocks and the only roof they've been able to make is for women and children. They completely destroyed the country, and the government is trying to fix it, but how long will it take?

So, we were bad, and on top of that we got hurricanes. I believe the country is heading to its worst crisis since the Soviet Union collapsed, or maybe worst, and I don't know how we're going to get out of it if the government doesn't change some things.

How can people help?

I don't really know, but I've met people everywhere that find a way to help. Cubans (and people that love Cuba) everywhere are taking donations and bringing them down here. So if you know a Cuban, they probably know of ways to make donations.

HT Cool. Final question: You have a very amusing blog yourself, can you tell me about your obsession with alternative sex in Cuba?

AB It's not an obsession! I mean, what don't you find funny about a guy fucking a chicken or a banana tree! And it's not only in Cuba. The guy that fucked the octopus was in another island in the Caribbean!

HT What advice do you have for young artists?

Quit while you still can!

No, seriously, no matter what you do, always do it from your heart.

Oh, and you can't fix everything in postproduction.

Now really, even more serious, quit while you still can! And don't ever let your children near a camera and much less let them use your car while shooting a film!