Cuban Children Reach Out through Film to Peers in Post-Quake Haiti

As part of the 8th Humberto Solás International Low-Budget Film Festival, children and adolescents attended a filmmaking workshop. Five girls and five boys were chosen to work on a project where they could think to think about their experiences and make a gift for the children of Haiti. They remembered the hurricane that devastated their home town of Gibara in eastern Cuba two years ago, thought about their memories and their dreams, and filmed images to make a video message for children in post-quake Haiti. The material produced by the workshop will be sent to Haitian communities affected by the earthquake, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in Cuba.

Held between April 19 and 24, the Low-Budget Film Festival was conceived of to foment appreciation of films made on a shoestring, but nonetheless of high artistic quality, which portray a wealth of alternative viewpoints and are seldom shown by major distributors. The festival constituted a marathon of parallel screenings, workshops, visual arts activities, and concerts. This year over 1,000 movies were entered, and 300 were chosen for the competition proper. The participation of children and adolescents at the festival, which was founded by late Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás (1941-2008), began this year and “has come to stay.”

Cuban psychologists Yuliet Cruz and Silvia Padrón initiated the children’s project, aimed at avoiding “secondary victimization,” a result not of the original trauma, but of the subsequent response of institutions and individuals to the victims, for example when the adults in charge focus on concrete goals rather than the experiences and processes the children are living through.

UNICEF representative in Cuba José Juan Ortiz says, “When you are a victim, it’s difficult to think about other victims. So it’s important for other victims to tell you how they lived through and overcame a similar experience. One child victim of a catastrophe tells his or her story to another who is suffering now.” Psycho-emotional rehabilitation is hardly ever funded by international relief in disaster situations, Ortiz explains. However, such simple activities as drawing and painting, or more complex ones like creating a film, have proved highly valuable in this work.

Ortiz states that the children’s audiovisual workshop in Gibara will not be a one-time event, but rather is intended to blaze a trail. He explains, “The material made here will be sent to Haitian children, who will then make their own video about their experiences for children in Cuba. [. . .] And as this festival is a good place for dreaming, let’s dream that this may be the beginning of a collaboration between Gibara and something that, some time, can take shape in Haiti.”

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