Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fade-out: Humberto Solás

I just found out that the Cuban film director, Humberto Solás, died on September 17 at the age of 66. Here is the best obituary I could find--however, he doesn't seem to have been eulogized at length in any major newspapers.

Why do I know, or care, about Sr. Solás, you ask? Well, when I visited Cuba with a school group in 2003, it was somehow arranged for Solás to come and give us an informal talk about being a filmmaker in Cuba.

I wish I could remember more about what Solás said (or wish, at least, that I had my Cuba diary here beside me) but mostly I just remember the room it took place in: small and dim and windowless, which gave the whole proceedings a clandestine air, as if we were hiding from Castro. And most of the questions, I recall, involved people asking about how it was to make films under the Castro regime, to deal with the embargo, etc. Or about the themes and messages of his 2001 movie Miel para Oshun, which we had all watched together a few nights previously.

But as I've said before, my primary orientation is aesthetic rather than political, and I grew annoyed that my classmates had a respected artist in front of them yet were only asking him questions about politics. I wanted to hear his opinions on the art of film itself. So I stood up and shyly asked if there were any films or directors that had particularly influenced him, or that he'd particularly recommend.

"John Huston," he said. "Fat City."

I dutifully wrote that down in my notebook, even though at the time I had barely heard of Huston.

As for his own movie, Miel para Oshun, it pains me to say that I found it very boring at the time. However, I wasn't watching it under ideal conditions--there were about 30 of us trying to watch it on a small TV screen, and it didn't have subtitles, and Cuban dialects can be hard to understand. I'd be willing to give it another shot, but I don't know if it's available in the United States. Maybe it would be easier to pay respect to Solás' memory by watching some John Huston movies instead.

Picture of Solás from

No comments: