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Cuban actress Mirtha Ibarra (San José de Lajas, 1948) appears to reinvent herself over and over again. Her smile, which has enchanted decades of Cuban moviegoers, is still there. So is the sparkle in her eyes.
Mirtha proudly begins our conversation by telling us about her childhood in the town of San José de las Lajas. She draws our attention to the first Carnival held there after the Triumph of the Revolution where she was chosen teh Carnival Queen.
Her professional career began in 1967 performing with different theater groups. The seventies saw her most effective stage work in plays such as Weekend en Bahía and Tiene la palabra el camarada máuser. These were times that saw powerful ideological political and social content take over the stages where legendary figures of the Cuban theater were at work directing: Abelardo Estorino, Héctor Quintero, Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, Gerardo Fulleda León and Alberto Pedro, just to mention a few.
Her work in Cuban television has been minimal but memorable. She starred in two serial dramas that were very popular at the time: Pasos hacia la montaña and El hombre que vino con la lluvia.
Mirtha is not just an actress. She has a solid intellectual background grounded in Latin American Literature, which she studied at the University of Havana. She is a passionate reader, a habit that has always provided her with a considerable edge as an actress.
In speaking about herself, she makes a significant pause as she begins to talk about the moment she decided to live with filmmaker Tomas Gutiérrez Alea (Titón), around the year 1973. She admits that by the side of that extraordinary artist (the director of Memorias del Subdesarrollo and Fresa y Chocolate) she learned to perceive the world differently. A vision enriched by the disturbing gaze of a creator who was convinced that artists have to transform reality with their acts.
Friendships occupy an important place in her priorities. Her friends have provided many of those memories in which she is interested, and this has led her to begin writing a book that will include the most shining moments of her public and private life.
To consider Cuban film without the presence of Mirtha Ibarra is practically impossible. Her debut in the world of the cinema took place in 1976 in the film La última Cena but it is not until 1983 that her presence becomes more notable when she stars as one of the leads in Hasta cierto punto (1983). Both films were directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.
From 1983 to 1993 she worked in several films in leading roles. In 1993 she took part in an extraordinary film called Fresa y Chocolate, directed by Titón and ‘Juan Carlos Tabio. Thanks to her outstanding performance, she won a Coral Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 15th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema of Havana. This role also brought her the award of Best Supporting Actress at the Gramado International Film Festival in Brazil in 1994.
In 1995, she was again directed by Titón and Tabío in Guantanamera, a story filled with delicate humor. She shared the lead with Jorge Perrugoría, who had been her co-star in Fresa y Chocolate. After the death of Gutiérrez Alea, she took part in several of Tabio’s films such as Aunque estés lejos and El cuerno de la abundancia.
In this past decade, Mirtha Ibarra has starred in a dozen films, both in Cuba and abroad, always revealing her mastery of the actor’s craft and artistic maturity that continues to earn her the prestige and admiration of audiences.
March 2015 This article formed part of the March 2015 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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