Cuban Filmmaker Daniel Díaz Torres Dies

By Andrew S. Vargas

Daniel Díaz Torres, a prolific and controversial Cuban filmmaker, critic and educator, died on Monday in Havana. He was 64.

Díaz Torres began his career in the ICAIC - Cuba's state film studio - directing newsreels that garnered attention for their critical perspective toward Cuban social reality as well as their humorous, ironic tone. His first narrative feature, Jíbaro (1984), set the stage for a distinguished career as a director of both narrative and documentary films that culminated with his most recent feature, the multiple award-winning La película de Ana (pictured right, 2012), considered by many to be his best work.

Díaz Torres received notoriety for his controversial 1991 feature Alicia en el pueblo de maravillas / Alice in Wondertown , a satirical reflection on Cuban society that took on sensitive issues of indoctrination, bureaucracy and coercion. Described by one critic as “the most controversial film in the history of Cuba,” Alice in Wondertown was pulled from Cuban theaters only four days after its release and the filmmaker was forced to endure a barrage of negative publicity in official state media. Despite this backlash, the film was awarded the Freedom Prize at the 1991 Berlin Film Festival and has since been hailed as a classic of Cuban cinema.

In addition to his directorial work, Díaz Torres was a noted critic, writing frequently for publications such as Cine Cubano and Bisiesto alongside fellow ICAIC stalwarts Fernando Pérez, Enrique Colina and others. He also left his mark on generations of young filmmakers as a professor, and subsequently Department Head at Cuba's renowned International School of Film and Television - a position he maintained until his passing.

Reflecting on the what many characterized as the socially critical nature of his work, he once said: "As long as one is able to take on a given reality or character with authenticity and honesty, fully consciousness of the subject's complexity, a critical perspective... will come forth naturally from the material."