Friday evening, November 5, at the Village East Cinema, the Havana Film Festival New York kicked off its twenty-first edition. The night resuscitated an event that had been delayed and betrayed by a pandemic. A Red-Carpet entrance and Opening Ceremony, made attendees feel how special it was to return to this festival.
This Opening Ceremony started with a poignant tribute to those lost in Cuban and Latin American cinema. An “In Memoriam” honored the memories of heroes such Enrique Pineda Barnet, Lourdes Prieto, and Diana Montero. Hosts Kika Child and Martin Nuñez-Bonilla introduced the films submitted for the Havana Star Prize. They also introduced the juries who will judge them. There will be a prize for Best Documentary. For fiction films, the awards will include Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor/Actress.
Opening remarks from HFFNY founder Carole Rosenberg reminded us of how trying it’s been during a global pandemic. Especially trying was the cancellation of the spring 2020 edition of the festival. Concluding her remarks, she couldn’t have said it better when she declared, “Movies keep us company when times are tough.” In the same vein, Artistic Director Diana Vargas lauded how the festival team found a way, after that cancellation, to bring movies to audiences with online programming. Ms. Vargas echoed Ms. Rosenberg as she welcomed us back to the “sacred space” of the movie theater.
Next was the opening film for the festival, “El Olvido Que Seremos” (“Memories of My Father”). The film, making its New York premier, is directed by Fernando Trueba, based on the novel of the same name by Héctor Abad Faciolince. The story is that of Héctor Abad Gómez, and his life as a father, doctor, and activist in Medellin, Colombia in the 1970s and 80s. It was a compelling film from the opening moments to the final scene. If the other movies in the festival are only half as good as this one, cinephiles are in for a week of happy discoveries.
After the screening was a brief Q&A with the writer, Héctor Abad Faciolince. Speaking with the moderator Fernando Traversi and a translator, the novelist’s discussed adapting the book into a screenplay. He described how condensing the story to a two-hour film makes it more memorable.
Following the Q&A, the Opening Night Festivities concluded with a party, featuring music by Cuban pianist Dayramir González.
The 21st Havana Film Festival New York continues through November 11. Don’t wait. Treat yourself to some moving cinema in the theater now. You can find more information at www.hffny.com