[Many thanks to artist Coco Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.] Carlos Quintela (Diario de Cuba) interviews Cuban director Ana Alejandra Alpízar. Based in Miami, Florida, the director shared information on her career and upcoming projects, saying, “I am now developing a project on ‘the suitcase to Cuba.’” Alpízar recently premiered a short film at the Sundance Festival, and explains that she feels more Cuban in Miami than she did in Cuba. Here are translated excerpts from Diario de Cuba.
Ana Alejandra Alpízar is a Cuban filmmaker living in Miami, trained in the School of Audiovisual Communication of the Superior Institute of Art, specializing in screenwriting at the International School of Film and Television (EICTV) [Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV)]. Her short films El estreno [The Premiere] and El pescador [The Fisherman] among others, stand out. This is one of those female voices that will surely surprise us in this decade.
Tell me how you got to the Sundance Festival and about your experience in that 2018 edition.
It was with El pescador, a story inspired by my relationship with my father. As I understand it, thanks to the ICAIC Youth Show, someone from Sundance saw my short film and was struck by it. Otherwise I think it would not have happened, because if you are not recommended, it is very difficult to get through the filters of a festival like that. Sundance is the bomb. They select you and right away you have a lot of people writing to you: agents, producers, distributors. Suddenly you appear on the map. I remember finding out just the day I decided to “stay” in the US. So, for me it had added value. That was the best welcome to La Yuma. [. . .]
Did you have any feedback on the short film?
The feedback I received was quite positive. I was sometimes afraid that “poverty porn” [la pornomiseria] was what most interested people in the short film, not the human and universal story that it tells. I have a complicated relationship with that short film precisely for that reason. I kind of used “poverty porn” knowingly, to make a product that festivals would want.
What is pornomiseria [poverty porn] for you? What elements do you find in El pescador that suggest it?
The story of the short is inspired by my dad, who was a fisherman. But he was also an economist and a brilliant guy. His story is much more interesting than the one in the film, but it does not fit into a short film. The truth is that my economic and social reality was far removed from what I told. But I think that, if I told my story as it was, even if the conflict were the same, nobody would be interested in it. Misery is very aesthetically seductive, at least on screen. I don’t know, I felt like a bit like a whore making that short film.
I wanted to produce a short film that would take me out of Cuba. I have found several friends who have told me the same thing about shorts they have made. We call them film-fasters.
Ah, one thing I had forgotten. You don’t know this, but the idea for that short film was yours. I remember that one day I told you that I wanted to make a short film about a fisherman and I told you that when I was a child I was disgusted by the smell of fish that my dad brought home. You told me: “Ana, there is your story.” Then this short film arose about the sacrifice of a father to please his daughter and her ingratitude as she does not want to kiss him because he smells of fish. [. . .]
Do you think EICTV teaches how to make films that make it to festivals?
I feel that there is a very clear outline of where they are leading their students. I also believe that the public assessment system makes students, consciously or not, produce to be endorsed, to be approved by that canon. At that moment, as a creator, you are very vulnerable and it is very difficult to have the courage and say, this is what I want to do. I think that the school is very closed in that sense, although in terms of training, truthfully, I think it’s impressive. Beyond that, the Film School has been the best thing that has ever happened to me, I owe a lot to the school for my training as a screenwriter.
Do you have another project in mind?
Arriving in Miami, I filmed a short film called Hapi Birdey Yusimi in Yur Day. It is a short film that fuses a bit of documentary and fiction, and tells the story of a former bartender who waits for her sugar daddy on her 30th birthday. It is the story of a character who does not know how to get out of a macho universe, but is also a story about the promise of a better life for the migrant, that american dream that we have been told about. For the first time I feel that I am a little closer to what I want to tell.
Now I am developing a project on “the suitcase to Cuba.” One of my first jobs here was in one of those stores that specialize in “things for Cuba,” and I fell in love with the process, the suitcase to Cuba, because that is a whole universe …
I am interested in approaching the idea of people who have never stopped being there, and whose happiness in the USA can be summed up by filling 70 pounds of gifts [bound for Cuba] whenever they can. But I also seek to use the suitcase as a pretext to tell the story of those who have never returned and face their ghosts for the first time, or the Cuban-Americans who does not even know the cousins to whom they send gifts. I want to tell the story of the different Cuban migratory waves through what they carry in their suitcases to Cuba. It is a project that is still very green, but on which I hope to continue working.
[Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full interview (in Spanish), see https://diariodecuba.com/cultura/1593359216_23433.html