Cinema Tropical writes that Cuban filmmaker Juan Carlos Tabío died this morning in Havana, Cuba.
Cuban filmmaker Juan Carlos Tabío died this morning in Havana, Cuba, of undisclosed causes. A major figure in Cuban cinema, he directly mostly comedies and was best known for the 1993 film Strawberry and Chocolate / Fresa y chocolate that he co-directed with Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and that was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Born in 1943 in Havana, he joined the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) in 1963, where he directed over 30 short documentary films. In 1983 he made his debut feature film with the comedy House for Swap / Se permuta starring renowned actress Rosita Fornés in the role of Gloria, who exchanges the family’s old house in Guanabacoa for a modern apartment in Vedado to keep her daughter away from her boyfriend, yet her plans soon backfire.
In 1988 he directed the screwball comedy film Plaff! or Too Afraid of Life / Demasiado miedo a la vida o Plaff starring Daisy Granados about a superstitious middle-aged woman falls in love with a taxi driver, while trying to learn the identity of the unseen person tossing eggs at her.
In 1993 he co-directed with Gutiérrez Alea the landmark film Strawberry and Chocolate, a comedy starring Jorge Perrugoría and Vladimir Cruz, Mirta Ibarra, and Francisco Gattorno. Based on the short story “The Wolf, The Forest and the New Man” by Senel Paz, who also wrote the screenplay, the film set in Castro’s Cuba in the seventies tells the unlikely friendship between a hard-line Cuban communist and his neighbor, a gay political activist and artist named Diego.
A co-production between Cuba’s ICAIC, IMCINE and Tabasco Films of Mexico, and Telemadrid of Spain, Strawberry and Chocolate became the first Cuban film with an overtly gay character. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was awarded the Silver Bear, Special Jury Prize. It also became Cuba’s only film to ever receive an Oscar nomination, and it was released in the U.S. to great success by Miramax Films.
Tabió’s films include other comedies, such as The Elephant and the Bicycle / El elefante y la bicicleta (1994); Guantanamera (1995); Waiting List / Lista de espera (2000); Though You Are far Away / Aunque estés lejos (2003); The Horn of Plenty / El cuerno de la abundancia (2008). His last film credit was the segment “Dulce amargo” for the 2012 omnibus film 7 Days in Havana / 7 días en La Habana, co-directed by Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, and Laurent Cantet.
Tabío also worked as a professor of screenwriting and filmmaking at the International Film, Television and Video School in San Antonio de los Baños. In 2014, he received Cuba’s National Film Award for his contributions to the island’s film industry.