CUBA: LIVING BETWEEN HURRICANES
VIVIR ENTRE CICLONES
Cuba: Living Between Hurricanes is a film is about the elements – hurricanes and rain, the sea and the earth. About a fishing port on the north coast of Cuba which has seen better days: Caibarién, where Hurricane Irma – one of the most powerful ever to sweep the Caribbean – made landfall in September 2017. About the effects of climate across the centuries in a Caribbean island which was absorbed into global markets for its commodity crops – tobacco, coffee and above all, sugar. How sugar changed the landscape, through deforestation and soil exhaustion. About the collapse of sugar and the encroachment of a new market – tourism. And about the growing threat from climate change, and moves towards reforestation, eco-tourism and sustainable farming.
Working with the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez, a Cuban NGO dedicated to environmentalism, gave us the opportunity to get away from the iconic imagery of a Caribbean paradise which Communism has caught in an anachronistic time warp – the very imagery associated with the mass tourism whose growth since the 1990s has gone some way to replacing the foreign earnings lost when the sugar industry collapsed after the fall of the Soviet bloc. Our camera offers an alternative unvarnished perspective, as we film the streets of the town and surrounding countryside, and visit one of the new hotels on the nearby keys.
We found our title in a speech by Cuba’s President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to the meeting of Caribbean countries in Managua in 2019: “Living between hurricanes has conditioned our lives; it has modified our geographies and spurred our migrations. And it has also educated us in the need to further study the phenomena that await us and work to reverse their damage.” The film takes a step in this direction. Taking our lead from recent work by historians and alive to the growing threat of climate change, Caibarién, once a thriving entrepôt, offered a promising vantage point to test the historians’ thesis about the advance of commodity frontiers in response to the development of the world market. One of us already knew the locality, where forests and food self-sufficiency had given way to cattle ranching, tobacco cultivation, and increasingly during the nineteenth century, the sugarcane industry, with its railways and sugar mills, resulting in soil exhaustion and pollution. Initial research for the film threw up a variety of footage of Irma’s landfall on YouTube, and we were sure there would be more. But this would only be our starting point. Our aim was to look for the historical big picture, and the relation of hurricanes to other facets of climate and ecology in a region made more vulnerable by climate change.
What we also discovered is that ecological thinking in Cuba goes back to the 1960s, when reforestation began; that the country has also been developing alternatives in the form of eco-tourism; that environmental consciousness has grown since Fidel Castro’s speech to the Earth Summit in Río de Janeiro in 1992; and the economic crisis of the 1990s has also encouraged new models of sustainable farming. Solutions like this are not just important locally. The challenge of climate change is a global one.
Cuba: Living Between Hurricanes had its premiere on 10 December 2019 during the Havana International Film Festival, and is now available through open access at www.livingbetweenhurricanes.org
A documentary about memory and politics in Argentina and Chile
A film about the City of London, the Corporation that governs it, and its role in the economic crisis.
Directed by Michael Chanan – Written by Lee Salter
On 15 October 2011 anti-capitalist protestors, intending to set up camp in front of the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square under the banner of Occupy LSX, were ejected from the square and parked themselves instead in front of St Paul’s Cathedral. The result was one of the starting points for this film: a highly public debate about capitalism and the Church.
But there was also another power acting in the shadows to eventually eject the Occupiers – the City of London Corporation. An ancient body which dates back before William the Conqueror, before there was a parliament in Westminster, which zealously guards its autonomy and privileges to this day.
This is the subject of Secret City: a state within a state, with deleterious effects on democracy, politics and economics in London, the country, and the world, for the City is the linchpin of global finance capital. In short, not just a film for Londoners—especially in these times of crisis, the role of the City concerns everyone everywhere.
Secret City had its premiere on October 16, 2012 at the House of Commons.
Available on DVD and streaming from E2 Films
Three Short Films About Chile
A trilogy by Michael Chanan made on a visit to Chile in November 2011.
1. Homage ･ 2. Community ･ 3. Protest
Three glimpses of Chile in 2011. Homage is a visit to Valparaiso. Community is a portrait of
Población La Victoria and its community television station, Señal 3. Protest is an account
of the momentous student protest movement—the occupations, marches, demonstrations,
street actions and web activism—and its tremendous impact on the country’s political life,
as they denounce the most intensely privatised education system in the world, demand the
return of free public education, and question the legitimacy of actually existing democracy in Chile.