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Neorrealismo y cine en Cuba: Historia y discurso en torno a la primera polémica de la Revolución (1951–1962)

Anastasia Valecce

Neorealism and Cinema in Cuba: History and Discourse on the First Polemic of the Revolution, 1951–1962 examines the aesthetic history and relations between Cuban film production and Italian Neorealism. The historical framework begins in 1951 before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and ends in 1962, a year that marks a rupture between Cuban filmmakers and the Italian neorealist aesthetic. The main collaborations happened between Cuban directors Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa and Italian neorealist filmmaker Cesare Zavattini. The circumstances that led to the end of the relationship between Zavattini and the Cuban filmmakers are connected to the film El joven rebelde (The Young Rebel), directed by García Espinosa and screened for the first time in 1961. The rupture centered on creative and ideological differences regarding the way in which the protagonist was to be portrayed in the movie. This seemingly minor disagreement had considerably larger repercussions, the end result of which was that García Espinosa and Gutiérrez Alea, as well as the rest of the Cuban filmmakers who worked within the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) after 1959, were driven to find their own creative strategies to craft a national film production. However, the Cuban filmmakers would not have found the necessary grammar to rewrite their own revolutionary cinema without the rupture with Zavattini. This new cinematographic language could not have existed without the various pauses and the distances that characterized the Cuban relationship with Neorealism. In other words, the fragmentary interchange between García Espinosa, Gutierrez Alea, and Zavattini created new spaces in which the Cubans could find creative opportunities to express their own cinematic vision.



Neorrealismo y cine en Cuba: Historia y discurso en torno a la primera polémica de la Revolución (1951–1962) delves into archival research and intriguing unpublished sources to make a superb contribution to the history of Italian Neorealism and its impact on early Cuban Cinema. It pioneers an insightful exploration of the cinematic journey of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio Garcia Espinosa from their student days at the Centro Sperimentale di cinematografia (CSC) in Rome, Italy, to the release of their first films in 1960 and 1961, respectively, under the auspices of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

A beautiful exploration of the influence and generative outcome of the relationship between the one of the pivotal figures of Italian Neorealism, Cesare Zavattini, and the creation of a “truly Cuban cinema” by these two forefathers of Cuban revolutionary cinema before and after the institutionalization of the ICAI.

A must-read for those interested in World Cinema, Italian Neorealism, Latin American cinema, and, more incisively, the genesis of revolutionary Cuban cinema.”

—Lourdes Martínez-Echazábel, University of California Santa Cruz



Anastasia Valecce is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Spelman College. Her research centers on contemporary Caribbean studies with a special focus on Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Her work includes film studies, queer and gender studies, visual art, visual culture, literature, performance studies, and pop culture. Her latest works include articles on contemporary cultural, visual, film, and queer productions in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.



PSRL 80. Paper. $45.00. e-Book available. 


Page last updated on 26 June 2021.

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