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BLOG: Cámara Chica in Cuba

A Mile in Our Shoes - a First Light movie

Briony Hanson, director of British Council Film reflects on the experience of facilitating dialogue between UK-based organisation First Light and FAMCA at the University of the Arts in Havana to organise a series of workshops for young people in Cuba.

We first dipped our toes in Cuban waters with several exploratory projects during 2012 dividing our efforts between simply showcasing British films and trying to find a more meaningful dialogue between film communities in the UK and those in Cuba. The results were varied: a fruitful new relationship began between a group of short filmmakers from Havana who were given a direct line to Bristol’s celebrated Encounters Shorts Festival, and a week of British Films screened at Havana’s CINE CHAPLIN, ranging from UK indie pics Monsters and Skeletons, to Ben Wheatley’s debut Down Terrace and Terence Davies’ elegant Deep Blue Sea. This was the first time that Cuban audiences had the chance to sample less mainstream British films en masse, making their selection after browsing our database of British film.

This June we’ve upped the stakes by heading out to Cuba ourselves to stage our most ambitious programme yet. A partnership with colleagues at First Light,  the celebrated UK-based organisation that uses film and media production to develop skills in young people from a variety of different backgrounds, we’re excited to be staging Cámara Chica, a series of seven workshops taking place across six provinces of Cuba.

Led from the Cuban side by La Facultad Arte de los Medios de Comunicación Audiovisual (FAMCA) part of University of the Arts , this project is designed to train staff in community centres across the island in the techniques needed to introduce children and young people to filmmaking.

A question of legacy
Using basic equipment – much of which we transported from the UK and most of which we’ll be leaving in Cuba as a legacy of the project - our UK mentors, Barry Hale and Chris Kemp, overseen by First Light CEO Leigh Thomas, will guide groups of community leaders to help groups of young people to create their own stories, developing ideas into a script over five days, and learning all the production techniques they need through the process through to the final edit. Once complete, the films will all get a community screening in each of the project locations, followed by a giant celebration…

Recording progress
British Council Film team’s Senior Advisor Will Massa was there to record the project start, highlights of which have so far included an extraordinary welcome play mounted by the first group of children in advance of their debut workshop (a group apparently so bright and enthusiastic they had the whole UK team on the verge of tears on Day 1). Despite some erratic wifi, Will and the team have been tweeting when they can from @British_Film #firstlightcuba - and we’ll be rounding up the full story the project team returns at the end of June.