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The unexpected death of Solás in 2008 at age 66, victim of devastating cancer, left both a symbolic and real void in Cubafor for, since 2003, Solás had been the champion of the Cine Pobre Film Festival of Gibara, an alternative competition for low-budget films, which from the very start emphasized the participation of young filmmakers and new technologies, as well as the controversial and sensitive content of the films.
Humberto Solás was born on December 4, 1941 in Havana. A graduate in history from the University of Havana, he started working in 1960 at the newly created Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) directing educational documentaries and shorts. Influenced by Italian realism, he directed the medium-length fiction film Manuela in 1966, which garnered some international success showing Solás great promise as a filmmaker.
He was 26 when he shot his masterpiece Lucía, which was essentially a portrait of the role of women in the history of Cuba in three historical moments: the wars of independence against Spain, the struggle against the dictatorship of Machado and the early years of the Revolution. The last story in Lucía, which was filmed in the town of Gibara, was the portrayal of a woman who is humiliated by her husband. This last story caused quite a stir as the husband represented the mentality that the new revolutionary society wanted to overcome. Lucía marked a new form of filmmaking in Cuba and was considered by critics as one of the ten most important films of Latin American cinema.
Women were a constant theme in his work. This led him to film a free version of “Cecilia Valdés,” Cuba’s most important novel of the 19th century. Solás’s four-hour megaproduction of Cecilia eventually became the most ambitious, expensive and controversial project undertaken by ICAIC, and sparked a debate that changed the way films were later produced in Cuba. His filmography includes Amada (1983), Un hombre de éxito [A Successful Man] (1985) and El Siglo de las Luces [The Age of Enlightenment] (1991).
His last two films, Miel para Ochún (2001) and Barrio Cuba (2005), were both shot using digital technology. Now Solás resorted to a straightforward aesthetical approach and dealt with the harsh everyday life in his country. When he created the Low-Budget Film Festival, he aimed to recover Cuba’s film production, which had been seriously affected by the crisis of the 1990s.
In an interview shortly before his death, when asked how he would like to be remembered, Humberto Solás replied: “For my love for Cuba, its culture, its image, for the Cuban curiosity of history, for the insatiable spirit of never wanting to be left behind, to always be in the theater of events, never distant.” Descember 2014 This article formed part of the descember 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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