‘The Padilla case’ reveals unpublished images of the punishment of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla

(EFE).- The poet Heberto Padilla was forced in 1971 to sing a “heartfelt self-criticism” before the Cuban writers’ guild and accused some of those present, including his wife, of being counterrevolutionaries in an anguished filmed session shown for the first time in the documentary The Padilla case.

“I define it as a terrible show, a lesson,” Pavel Giroud, a Cuban living in Madrid and director of the film presented this Sunday at the San Sebastian Festival, tells Efe, which manages to hook the viewer with the montage of an unpublished recording that It came into his hands a few years ago, and whose origin he does not want to reveal.

The images of self-incrimination for their lack of commitment to the author’s regime Offside They are interspersed with testimonies from Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jorge Edwards, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Carlos Fuentes and Fidel Castro, among others.

“I unstructured the chronology so that the film would evolve with dramatic characters,” explains Giroud, who competes in the Horizontes Latinos section.

“I unstructured the chronology so that the film would evolve with dramatic characters,” explains Giroud, who is competing in the Horizontes Latinos section. He assures that he has sought to “expose a fact and that the viewer draw their own conclusions”, in addition to investigating the causes and consequences of that event, in which they used Padilla to “give a lesson”, according to his thesis .

Was the poet ironic when he claimed that during his detention he had finally understood that his verses and conversations had been excessively pessimistic for the Revolution? Or was fear the only driving force behind his mea culpa?

The director showed some of these unpublished images to Vargas Llosa. “He told me that reading it is not the same as seeing it (until now there were only written testimonies) and that now he understands Padilla when he said that he was sending a message that day.”

The seclusion of the poet, who came to hold positions of cultural responsibility in the early years of the revolution, had mobilized great intellectuals and artists in the early 1970s, including Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Susan Sontag, Vargas Llosa and Julio Cortázar, who interceded with Castro to achieve his freedom.

But the defense of these figures was also denied by a sweaty and expressive Padilla in that long, dense and charged session in which serious and displeased authors such as Reinaldo Arenas, César López and Norberto Fuentes observed him.

The director is convinced that those who spoke, including his wife, the artist Belkis Cuza Malé, had previously prepared their speech with the poet

For the director, who has been in Spain for eight years, the effect of this histrionic assumption of responsibilities, which included the intervention of other writers who said they had understood that they should work harder for the Revolution, was the opposite of what the regime was looking for.

This was also the opinion of García Márquez, who stated that he did not know if Padilla had harmed the Revolution, but that his self-criticism had. The director is convinced that those who intervened, including his wife, the artist Belkis Cuza Malé, had previously prepared his speech with the poet.

But even if Padilla ended up turning censorship in some way, for a person of his intellectual stature it must have been “very hard” to be subjected to that situation, Giroud remarks. “From that moment on he did not find his space.” He ended up separated from his wife and exiled in the US in the year 80.

“Vargas Llosa found him years later in Princetown and saw him very far away. The right-wingers who at first applauded him would soon put him aside. Someone in his position did not find a space in this sociopolitical universe,” explains Giroud.

the author of just human time, the bold roses Y provocations he died in Alabama in 2000, of a heart attack, at the age of 68, isolated and alone, far from the vital and charismatic man he had become.

“Half a century later, that same lack of freedom of expression has multiplied tenfold in Cuba. Anyone who doesn’t want to see what is happening doesn’t want to,” says Giroud, highly critical of the “administrative silence” position of some parties in Spain and Europe before the Government of the Island. “The left no longer defends Cuba, it only looks the other way, it confuses us a lot,” he confesses.

Tribute to black women and Santeria

Santeria as a balm for the loneliness of Cuban mothers who lose their children, either because they leave the Island or because they are burned on it, is the focus of the film’s plot Vicenta B.which was also presented this Sunday in the Horizontes Latinos section of the San Sebastian Festival, where it received a standing ovation.

Directed by Cuban Carlos Lechuga, it stars the magnetic Linnett Hernández Valdés, in the role of a powerful santera who wants to help others and thus neglects her personal life, but who loses her gift when her worries overwhelm her.

“When reality hits you, drinks and cards are not worth it, it is very difficult to keep faith,” Lechuga remarked in the colloquium after the film.

The director, whose grandmother was a card reader, had to find a very personal story in order to return to shooting in Cuba after being subjected to a period of censorship and surveillance for his previous film, Santa and Andrew (2016), which recounted the friendship between a revolutionary peasant woman and a gay writer whom she has to watch for three consecutive days.

“The greatest damage that has occurred in Cuba is the damage to the family, they have separated families, the elderly from the young people who have no chances on the island. This is a film about single mothers with children who either leave or they are burning”

The result was the script for Vicenta B., where there is no trace of ideological discourse. However, its author believes that it is a “very political film, because everything in Cuba is political,” as he pointed out in the colloquium after the screening.

Thus, it makes it clear that young people on the Island are forced to choose between uprooting themselves and leaving their families behind to work abroad, or staying and living in a depressing and penurious situation, and thereby burning out, which has turned the country into an “island of the elderly,” said the director.

When Lechuga was shooting the film, at the worst moment of the pandemic, he accompanied his mother to get vaccinated against covid and observed how most of those who waited to be vaccinated later were older people with no one by their side.

“The greatest damage that has occurred in Cuba is the damage to the family, they have separated families, the elderly from the young people who have no chances on the island. This is a film about single mothers with children who either leave or they burn,” he remarked, after which he asked for freedom for the political prisoners in Cuba.

Actress Linnett Hernández Valdés, a Cuban resident in Paris, confessed that it has been the most difficult role she has assumed in her career, in which titles such as Cartagenatogether with Sophie Marceau and Christopher Lambert, or Love and Other Demons, as well as numerous theatrical works.

The actress confessed that she does believe that “supernatural things, spirits that accompany us” and that, as pointed out in the film, “an object, a stone, a piece of wood, can transmit a lot of things to you, especially peace with yourself”.

The film tells that just as the slaves found consolation in the gods when they were uprooted from Africa to take them to Cuba, or killed themselves in desperation, now many of their descendants cling to faith in a mixture of Christianity, African religions , spiritism and divination to ease their living conditions.

To prepare for her role, both in Paris and in Cuba, the actress went to tarot readers and card readers. “They told me how they threw the cards, they talked, they connected with those spirits. For me this is above all a tribute to the black woman and Cuban santera,” she concluded to applause.

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‘The Padilla case’ reveals unpublished images of the punishment of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla