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    On Censorship And Its Demons

    On Censorship And Its Demons / 14ymedio, Enrique Colina
    Posted on November 14, 2015

    14ymedio, Enrique Colina, 30 October 2015 – The artistic censorship
    practiced in Cuba during these 56 years, against works and creators,
    from a culture in favor of a supposed defense of the Revolution, has
    paradoxically resulted in a backlash against the political prestige of
    the Revolutionary Process, the same one that encouraged and developed
    from its beginnings the diverse artistic expressions that today sustain
    and reinforce our national identity and guarantee the continuity of the
    positive legacy of this stage of our history.

    If we consider the rectifications and rescues of cultural works and
    personalities that were once stigmatized with the counterrevolutionary
    sanbenito by officials and leaders of a rigid and dogmatic orthodoxy –
    on occasion fractured by a corrupt and opportunistic, or simply
    inconvenient, act within a centralized and vertical structure of power,
    which led them to be separated and condemned to political ostracism –
    the list would be long. Today the injustices committed during the
    so-called Five Gray Years are officially recognized, and the
    reparations, repairs and appropriation of our cultural legacy is often
    realized when its authors have already disappeared, moreover of those
    who had to emigrate, but for those who left because of criticism,
    warnings and the denunciation in their works the authoritarian and
    intolerant drift of the systemic bureaucracy, for those “rescued” they
    have to be dead already.

    Intolerance to criticism as a rule to know the truth – which is inherent
    in the artistic phenomenon that explores, investigates and scrutinizes
    human conflicts, socially, politically and economically framed in its
    reality and its history – has been and continues to be a projection of a
    fear to face the responsibilities emanating from a bureaucratic power
    that has made mistakes, and suffered losses and deviations from its
    original revolutionary and libertarian impulse.

    Mistakes and absurdities motivated on occasion by a chimerical
    immobility incapable of adapting and overhauling the utopia to meet the
    urgent requirements of a reality in need of an objective, sensible and
    balanced assessment of the causes of its defects in order to correct and
    amend them. Rather, and despite, the cyclical openings of rectification
    and the calls to public criticism against what has been done badly in
    these 56 years, attention was always focused on the phenomena and not
    the causes.

    Thus the absence of a systematic critical confrontation through the
    media, subjected to a castrating censorship, has ended up forging the
    sacredness and untouchability of the vertical decisions of power,
    although it tries to mask them with participative consultations to touch
    up the make-up.

    There is already a stagnation in public awareness and an ideological
    exhaustion from the worn out propagandistic character of the media that
    support an opaque future reality and provoke this apathy and escapism
    that so concerns those who are worried about the ideological
    diversionism, superficiality and banality of the entertainment people
    seek in the “weekly packet,” the computer games, and reggaeton music…

    This loss of values, bad education, vulgarity, social indiscipline… are
    also the result of not having promoted and nurtured in public practice
    that rebellion and autonomy of opinion that Che encouraged against all
    the liars and opportunists who preach the dictates of discretion,
    caution and restraint in the expression of our non-conformist
    citizens. Disagreement as a lawful civil right to express an opinion
    without being reprimanded through this inoculation of fear in the face
    of the consequences of expressing a critical point of view in “an
    inappropriate place, at an inopportune moment, and in a politically
    incorrect manner.”

    Movies, plays and art works have contributed with many of their
    creations to confronting us with this wall of silence protected by the
    ideological gatekeepers who censor and condemn in the name of the
    defense of the Revolution when in reality what they do is undermine the
    humanist pillars of its continuity. Movies, plays and artworks – without
    forgetting the period of prohibition suffered by the best exponents of
    the Nueva Trova who ultimately became the most authentic singers of the
    Revolutionary work – suffered the brunt of this reactionary hangover
    that rejects the debate of ideas and crouches in the stone trenches to
    launch their poisonous inquisitional darts.

    Recently — and in contradiction to the appeal made by the government’s
    highest authorities to face reality with a critical eye, honesty and
    ethical commitment, recognizing that unanimity of opinions is a fallacy
    of simulation — they have launched attacks against a writer whose
    literary work and journalism is an example of seriousness and sincerity
    recognizing our current material and spiritual scarcities, in addition
    to being a genuine exponent of a committed and authentic Cubanness.

    I’m talking about Leonardo Padura and also referring to the stupid ban
    on the movie based on his novel, Return to Ithaca, which months later
    was shown during French Cinema week, more to keep up appearances than as
    recognition of the error of arrogance committed. Stupid because it
    shamelessly exposed the fangs of the crouching dogmatic beast just to
    create a problem that discredits not only its own maker but the power it

    Because it is understood that more than strength, such intolerant
    behavior expresses the weakness and the intellectual and political
    intolerance for open and responsible debate with reasons and arguments
    that nourish a shared confidence to seek solutions to the problems
    denounced in the work, so that this sad history is not repeated, a
    history of encouraging this “revolutionary” combativeness with a
    propensity to gag thinking and make a paranoid sickness of the logical
    precaution that assumes a change like that which is being produced in
    our country. Healthy change, not only of the intentions to keep
    everything the same, but to expunge this inability to see ourselves in
    an uncomfortable mirror, to recognize our imperfections and to question
    the historic deficiencies in the systemic structure of the model that
    encourages them.

    Thus, I finally get to the starting point that motivated me to write
    these lines: the prohibition of the play by Juan Carlos Cremata and the
    suspension of his employment as a theater director. This brought me to
    remember those years when the Cuban theater, that had reached its
    splendor with the Revolutionary triumph, suffered that purifying
    “parameterization” with its aberrant and repressive prejudices that
    resulted in frustration, ostracism and exile for creators and artists
    who were only enriching with their art the cultural patrimony that we
    know constitutes the support and sustenance of our national identity.

    I am not telling the story nor mentioning names overwhelmed by that
    outrage which I consider truly shameful and counterrevolutionary, which
    only brought discredit to a Revolution that some extremists with the
    power of decision interpreted the aspiration to create a New Man with
    that of creating an obedient robot, dogmatic and filled with reactionary
    prejudices, today under attack but not exterminated. Nor will I stop to
    argue about the work in question which one can agree with or not, like
    its staging or not… no, I only want to point out that I consider it
    inappropriate for some – who are not artists nor have they contributed
    anything to the national culture – to again set themselves up as
    inquisition judges and who, yoked to an ephemeral authority, decide to
    frustrate the fate of an artist, of a creator whose work in the cinema
    and the theater is already the patrimony of our culture.

    There may be contradictions and wherever a theater director can decide
    whether or not to present a work, whether to suspend or continue its
    representation, the anomalous case is that if there was prior
    supervision with respect to its content or staging, the responsibility
    the censors have in the situation created after the premiere.

    The theater in Cuba is under by the Ministry of Culture and responds to
    a political culture whose tuning fork should be as broad as the
    recognition of the national audience’s capacity of discernment, an
    audience officially recognized for its educational, political and
    cultural level. So why, then, the censorship of the adaptation and
    staging of a play that itself contains great provocation, perfectly
    compatible with the shock factor of an art that tries to break taboos,
    move us and make us think, to take sides in favor or against their proposal?

    Do we or do we not have an educated and committed audience with
    revolutionary ideas and principles capable of drawing their own
    conclusions to approve or reject it? What is the real constructive sense
    of an exclusive censorship without mediating a debate among those who
    undertake this artistic activity who are potentially subject to this
    same arbitrariness?

    When, 25 years ago, censorship was dictated against Daniel Diaz Torres’s
    Alice in Wonderland, and direction was given to the militants of the
    Provincial Party, headquartered at M and 23rd, to go to the Yara Cinema
    during its showing to “cut off at the pass any manifestation of
    counterrevolutionary approval.” On the front page of the newspaper
    Granma an official note appeared where it was announced that the Council
    of State decided that the Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry
    (ICAIC) would be under the supervision the Cuban Institute of Radio and
    Television (ICRT). This meant that the National Film Institute lost the
    relative autonomy of political decision-making for the approval of film
    production, which until then had allowed them to do documentary film
    production and today could be considered as a diagnosis of the evils of
    the Special Period which worsened to point of sounding the alarm on the
    urgent need to make the changes and openings that today are so long delayed.

    At that time we filmmakers gathered to protest against that decision
    that discredited the film, its director and dissolved the ICAIC. The
    film was not counterrevolutionary, nor was its director nor any of those
    who went down on their knees to defend the artistic space with critical
    proposals, all lined up against the bureaucratic authoritarian and
    reductive abusive interventionism, exactly like that which caused the
    so-called desmerengamiento* (total collapse) of the Socialist Camp.
    (Because it was the same hammer and sickle that brought down the Berlin
    Wall, and it is worth saying that it was because of disbelief and the
    political dysfunctionality of the Socialist model, in whose womb, worn
    out and corroded, lay the revolutionary essence of its origin.)

    There were directors like Santiago Alvarez, Tomas Gutierrez Alea and
    others who, with their artistic careers, supported the continuity of
    this critical slope that always confronted the harassment and
    repudiation of those keepers of the chalice, pristine and pure, of that
    ideology without supreme saviors, without Caesar or bourgeoisie or God…
    today we say a controversy in the practical application of the laws of
    dialectics. And, thanks to this resistance they would keep making movies
    that never turned their backs on reality and that today maintain intact
    their rebellion against bureaucratic ukases and diktats.

    So our protest is also confirmed by the pretension of excluding us from
    decision-making in the supposed restructuring of the ICAIC and the
    insistence, for more than two years, in the belief in a Film Law that
    guarantees the recognition of an independent production and a movie
    institute that promotes and protects national filmmaking and not one
    that monopolizes and controls it, because there is no… (There is an
    official claim of legitimate institutions eroded by a future that has
    exceeded its capacity for functional readjustment to meet new demands
    imposed by a very distinct present very different from that which
    motivated its origin. See the documentary, “Put me on the list…”)

    The Cremata case falls within the ideological debate which has marked
    the destiny of a process that needs to keep alive the historic memory of
    its cultural work so as not to continue committing and supporting errors
    that put this valuable cultural treasure in danger, a critical
    thermometer that no censorship will be able to disconnect while we are
    able to act in consequence and committed to our civic duty.

    *Translator’s note: Desmerengamiento was coined by Fidel Castro to
    embody, in a single word, the debacle of the Soviet Union. It comes from
    the word “meringue” and, like a failed meringue, refers to the idea of a
    complete collapse.

    Source: On Censorship And Its Demons / 14ymedio, Enrique Colina |
    Translating Cuba –

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