Festival de Cine Pobre
Film festival dedicated to low-budget productions

In a city by the sea, you're lured out of the spring sunshine and into a darkened cinema — but, no, you're not in Hollywood or Cannes. Don't expect to find any gala dinners or five-star hotels. No actors, directors, producers, distributors, promoters or sponsors are getting rich off the movie business. All the films showing here in Gibara were made for less (usually much less) than 300,000 dollars, and their value is not intrinsic to their potential to generate ticket sales or celebrity product endorsements.

The Gibara film festival is dedicated to movies made against seemingly overwhelming odds. What's different this time around is that the odds have turned against the festival itself.

Last September Hurricane Ike struck Cuba's northeastern coast and destroyed more than 70 percent of all the homes in Gibara. Disaster struck again September 17 when Humberto Solás died of cancer. Solás, the festival's founder, director and guiding spirit, had chosen to set the festival not in his native Havana but in this breathtakingly beautiful colonial town where he had shot his 1968 classic Lucia. So how could Gibara do anything but allow the show to go on? The 7th Festival Internacional del Cine Pobre de Humberto Solás —the first to bear the name of its late founder is taking place on schedule, April 13-19.

Solás, one of Cuba's greatest directors, came of age in the 1960s, when "Cine Pobre" carried the promise of a new kind of cinema emerging from Latin America — a cinema of limited means and seemingly limitless revolutionary ambition. Four decades later it would be easy to relegate the term to the art history shelf, alongside Italy's Arte Povera and every other Sixties movement that challenged the status quo. "Cine Pobre" translates today as "low-budget" or, when more emphasis is required, "no-budget" cinema, and conjures images of film-school graduates trying to scrape together funding for their first feature.

Yet Humberto Solás remained faithful to the true Cine Pobre cause, and he won converts everywhere he went. His socially conscious films never suffered for lack of high-priced actors or special effects, and when he launched his Cine Pobre festival in 2003, he didn't see this kind of exercise as being the least bit archaic. On the contrary, as he states in this interview (one of his last) with Havana Cultura, he saw it as a necessity.

Solás was an enthusiastic supporter of digital cinema technology — in 2001 he shot Miel para Oshun [Honey for Oshun] entirely with digital cameras — and he understood that the ability to lower the cost of making movies could only increase the opportunities for new voices to make themselves heard. And Gibara has become a good place to hear them.

As the digital cinema revolution picks up pace, and as the global movie industry tries to figure out how to cope with the worsening economic outlook, no-budget cinema threatens to become the rule rather than the exception.

Maybe the Cine Pobre movement was just a few years ahead of its time.