Key Figure of Cuban Cinema Julio García Espinosa Dies

Julio García Espinosa, one of the most prominent figures in Cuban cinema died Wednesday at the age of 89 in Havana. He was a filmmaker, screenwriter, cinema theorist, one of the founders of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográfica (ICAIC), as well as director of the Havana Film Festival and the Cuban Film School.

Born on September 5, 1926 in the capital of the country, he studied filmmaking at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografía in Rome, Italy (where Gabriel García Márquez and Fernando Birri also studied).

He worked in theater as an actor and director, and we also wrote radio shows. He directed his first short El mégano in 1955 in collaboration with Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, which is considered thefor the New Cuban Cinema.

During the Cuban Revolution he directed the documentary films Esta tierra nuestra y La vivienda and was appointed chief of cinema in the office of culture of the rebel army.

After the triumph of the Revolution he helped create the Cuban Film Institute, ICAIC, where he worked as Director of Artistic Programming, Vice-president, and later President until 1991. He also worked as Vice-minister of Culture between 1982 and 1990, and during his tenure he also directed the Havana Film Festival. Between 2004 and 2007 he served as director of the International School of Cinema and TV in San Antonio de los Baños.

His criticism and essays were influential internationally, being his essay "Towards an Imperfect Cinema" [Read the essay in English, translated by Julianne Burton] perhaps the most widely known. In his seminal essay, García Espinosa pleads for an imperfect cinema, which eschews technical perfection. He argues that aesthetic perfection only demands a passive attitude from the audience whereas and an imperfect cinema addresses the issues of its audience, therefore requiring active participation.

García Espinosa directed six feature fiction films in total: Aventuras de Juan Quin Quin / The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin (1961), La inútil muerte de mi socio Manolo / The Useless Death of My Pal, Manolo (1989), Cuba baila / Cuba Dances (1959) and Rei­na y Rey (1994). He directed seven documentaries total and work in over 20 films as a screenwriter, including Humberto Solás’ Lucía (1968), and Sergio Giral’s El otro Francisco / The Other Francisco (1974).