Film Restoration: An Early Handshake between Cuba and the USA

May 9, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

 Epoch Times Photo

The UCLA Film and Television Archive announced yesterday that it is joining forces with Cuba to restore 60, 70 and 80-year-old Latin American films. The announcement came following a February meeting and is among the earliest joint projects by the two nations.

Since Cuban President Raul Castro and American President Barack Obama jointly announced a thawing of relations in December 2014, representatives of the two countries have met frequently to discuss methods to heal the connection which was virtually non-existent for almost half a century.

Among the items coming from early talks are the opening of embassies, loosening of travel restrictions and a ferry between the two nations.

One topic frequently overlooked by the news media is unique. America and Cuba have agreed to work together to restore pre-revolutionary Cuban films.

In May, 2015, The UCLA Film and Television Archive’s project called, “Classic Latin American Cinema in Los Angeles,” selected “Casta de Roble” as the first film selected for restoration under the bilateral
agreement. Other films will follow, and the project will work to restore old films from Argentina and Mexico as well as Cuba.

Using technology similar to that already in place to restore and convert hi8 to DVD, the archives plan to eventually make “masters” of each film which can then be replicated digitally and disseminated over the Internet.

The project will culminate in a film exhibition in 2017 that will display the recovered materials with English subtitles.

The strength will be complicated by the fact that both the films and their history have vanished.

“If you look at film history books, they mention nothing about films made in Latin American countries in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, said UCLA Film and Television Archive Director.

“After the 1959 Cuban revolution, the government’s policy was only to save films made by the community government.

“Up until this year, the Cubans have never admitted these pre-revolutionary films even existed,” Horak said.

The goal of the program is to introduce Cubans and scholars and audiences to the cinema of the past.

“It’s not so foreign since once upon a time in Los Angeles we had a good number of movie theaters that ran Spanish-language films,” said Horak.