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Cuba legalizes independent movie-making

Until now, Cuba’s independent filmmakers have had to scramble to get their projects made due to the lack of legal recognition. And while their works have sometimes won renown in film festivals abroad, they have lacked distribution at home.

The government said, however, that as of Aug. 23, a new law will “approve the figure of the audiovisual and cinematographic creator as an independent artist” and create a national film fund.

While Cuba’s movie industry welcomed the long-awaited news, many cautioned it remains to be seen how it will be implemented.

“We’ve been waiting for this for many years,” Gustavo Arcos Fernández-Britto, a Cuban film critic and film studies professor in Havana, told. “This will not, however, resolve the issue of distribution, which remains controlled by the state.”

In a country that has been dominated by the state since the leftist revolution of 1959, it was long up to the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) to produce and finance movies.

But filmmakers began to make movies independently from the 1980s thanks to new technology like video cameras.

A majority of Cuba’s filmmakers now work outside of state institutions, saying it gives them more creative freedom and that they have been tolerated to some extent by the authorities.

Their legal limbo, however, has created trouble in obtaining permits to film in public spaces or to import equipment. It has also been difficult to gain funding since many foreign film funds will award money only to projects by a legally recognized production company with a corporate bank account.

Filmmakers and creative collectives will now be able apply to become economic entities that could officially hire people and open bank accounts, the ICAIC president, Ramon Samada, was quoted as saying on Thursday by state-run website Cubadebate.

“As a result, we can expect to see more movies being made,” Cuban director Alejandro Gil, who has worked both inside and out of state institutions, told.

The new legislation will also create three new private-sector licenses for those working on independent movie projects: operator of movie equipment, from lighting to drones; casting director; and production assistant.

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