When the general public thinks about movies, it generally associates them with the Hollywood film industry—high-budget franchises in a nearly monopolized amalgamation of controversial remakes, sequels, reboots and comic book or young adult novel adaptations, many of which adhere to a simple yet highly profitable formula.
Although independent filmmakers are starting to gain a greater following, particularly in the thriller and horror genres, Puerto Rican audiences are used to extravagant productions from the mainland United States, to the point where “indie” American movies and international selections are shown almost exclusively in a few select theaters.
Meanwhile, a number of resident film aficionados might look down on local productions that manage to break into mainstream theaters, as some of these can come across as repetitive, formulaic or even borderline obnoxious.
However, movie lovers who wish for a refreshing take on cinema can seek comfort in the eighth edition of the Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase (MICC by its Spanish acronym).
Founded in 2006 by renowned Cuban filmmaker Rigoberto López, who passed away earlier this year, this large-scale event groups 27 countries and jurisdictions in the Caribbean to introduce their respective audiences to movies produced in the region. Rather than having a host country, each participating nation coordinates its own logistics to reach a greater number of people.
Álvaro Calderón, who is hosting the event in Puerto Rico, informed THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that this event includes more than 15 selections from 10 different countries or jurisdictions, with these being Puerto Rico, Cuba, Martinique, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Suriname, Guadalupe and the Dominican Republic.
“These are good movies. There are documentaries, fiction films, feature films and short films. There is a very interesting mix of both fiction and documentaries,” he said.
From a neorealist fable from Haiti in which a teenager discovers he has superpowers while an old fisherman thinks the cure for his ailing wife is in the sea, to a documentary about two sisters who grew up together in one of Suriname’s sugar plantations in the 17th century, this edition contains thought-provoking pieces that challenge our preconceptions of the Caribbean’s potential for greatness in this industry.
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Calderón explained that MICC’s vision since its inception was to showcase these films for free.
“Originally, when it was founded, MICC was backed up by the UNESCO, UNICEF and other cultural international entities in the Caribbean... the idea was to bring free cinema to the largest possible number of countries and communities in our shared Caribbean,” he affirmed.
To cary out this mission, Calderón and a local team of professionals and enthusiasts founded Arte y Cultura del Caribe Inc. which, in collaboration with other cultural and film-oriented organizations, seek to quench a thirst among locals for riveting and unconventional cinema, as well as to provide for cultural insight into our neighboring brethren.
MICC’s eighth edition kicked off on July 25 in San Juan and will continue showcasing films until August 25 in different parts of the island.
“This is the first time we have been able to present this eighth edition in all cardinal points of Puerto Rico... We will be presenting in the north, south, center, east and west of Puerto Rico,” Calderón stated.
The next stop, from August 8 to 11, will be in Caguas, at the former city hall (Antigua Alcaldía). After that, San Germán will host the showcase at the Teatro Sol from August 15 to 18, followed by the University of Puerto Rico’s campus in Humacao from August 19 to 22, and El Candil Library and Cultural Center in Ponce will feature the films from August 22 to 25.
In addition, MICC will be showing this edition’s films at the revolutionary Cine Solar in Casa Pueblo, Adjuntas—Puerto Rico’s first solar-powered movie theater—on August 17 and 24.
“It gives me great satisfaction, and I consider it an honor, to be able to host this exhibition that has already been presented in more than 30 countries since it was founded in 2006,” Calderón said, adding that this edition is an homage to its deceased founder, who made more than 30 movies and visited Puerto Rico on several occasions.
For more information on local screenings, visit www.arteyculturadelcaribe.org, or visit the non-profit’s Facebook page, Arte y Cultura del Caribe Inc.
Local Film Industry Gaining Momentum
Throughout the interview, Calderón also talked excitedly about Puerto Rico’s film industry, stating that it has begun to flourish with a variety of projects already in production or in initial stages.
“Without a doubt, this is a very big moment for local [film] projects..There are many in advanced development or in the pre-production stage, which should be in production within the next year,” he explained.
He added, “there is a momentum of both documentaries and fiction, and there are some projects that are a mix of dramatic documentary, where the genre of fiction is combined with the genre of documentary.”
One such example is his own project, ‘Julia de Burgos: Una leyenda en veinte surcos,’ which takes a new look at the life of this historically significant 20th-century poet from Puerto Rico.
“There is a good momentum; a lot of talent, and a lot of people trying to bolster their projects,” Calderón affirmed.
With MICC’s showcases and various local productions underway, perhaps Puerto Rican audiences will be able to rethink cinema and embrace the reflection of our culture through a filmmaker’s lens.
Editor's note: This story was published on the August 7 print edition of The Weekly Journal.