The cinematographic circuit premieres “Inocencia” (Innocence), a film that recreates the events of the execution of the eight medicine students in November 1871. We talk to its director, Alejandro Gil.
This is a tragic story, but it had to be told. Everybody thinks they know it very well, but there are revealing elements. It was the martyrdom of eight youngsters, who could have perfectly been today’s youngsters… Reasons enough to make a film.
This is a project largely cherished by Alejandro Gil, a man who is now happily amazed by the reception the film is having: “People have received it with great emotion, regardless of their age. It tells about the force of our history, and the need to return to it”.
—How can one approach an event like this without making it look a boring History class?
—You must establish a dialogue with your contemporaries: from the human thing, a credible dialogue, starting from those assumptions the great events arouse: certainties, doubts, fears… I realized with “Innocence” that the event could be narrated as a story, it had drama… and that enabled me to establish a very favorable cinematographic “contact” with the event. You can approach a milestone or a personality in many ways, but you should not overlook the codes of language and cinema…, which is art.
“Watching this, what remains is to conceive an approach: to identify the conflicts, to recreate the plots in order to be able to build a story which, under the director’s responsibility, can contribute a new point of view.
“History is always in motion. And it always has its doors open so anyone can enter there to poke around, to look for a new truth or to find new foundations to confirm the generally assumed truth, or even, a different symbolic dimension”.
—It has been said it is a film dedicated to youngsters…
—As we had the premise that this would be a film especially for youngsters, starring youngsters… we conceived a formal dialogue with those youngsters. That’s why, we started to move the framing structures, color saturation; we tried to have a montage based on parallel stories, which would be contributed and linked with cadence; we never lost all sense of time when it came to articulating the scenes… in short, we made an almost goldsmithing work.
“The idea was that those two hours of film run without obstacles, a scene “pushed” by the need of the other.
“If you think about young people, you need to give more freedom to the gestural thing. The actors were free to be, to a certain extent, themselves. Many of my characters are not very well known, there were a few elements to lean on when it came to building a characterization.
“Some actors asked me: what is my character like? I replied: “It can perfectly be like you. Stamp your own strength on it. We are bringing that character to life for the first time”.
“Of course, there was a maneuver behind to make all this coherent. We wanted that each of them were both different and united by a poetics.
“We avoided long, static or very rhythmic shots… that could have been another way of narrating, another spirit. But it was not ours. The structure we chose (to tell two parallel stories) allowed us that “game”, those shifts.
We should add to this the own force of Amílcar Salatti’s script, which was a very solid support. Even, it pressured (in the best sense) during the table read sessions.
“Taking all that to images in very tough times really scared. In every sense.
“Imagine the scenario: Havana is now a city completely “invaded” by man, if you have to set it with few resources so it can be the 19th-century Havana you must take a risk. We tried not to avoid general shots. We wanted the film to be oxygenated from its majority interiors… but those interiors had to be broad. Since we could not “fly” towards the exteriors, we tried to oxygenate it from the interiors”.
—Why telling that story? Why telling it now?
—In 1992, I made a documentary on that topic and realized there was a lot to say. Enough to make a film. But conditions were not created, we went through the toughest years of the Special Period (economic hardship). Actually, it was almost impossible to think about a film of that nature.
“But we had the health, time and perseverance to continue investigating… and the opportunity to make it appeared. I think it was made at the right time.
“I think we have settled a debt with that event, with that date. We wanted resize the symbolic character of that story. There was an unbalance between the way in which the event was assumed every year, and the level of real knowledge about all of its vicissitudes.
“We thought it was important that the film shed light over many of the dark zones of that tragic story, that it could “revive” it a bit.
“I believe it is a film that shows universal values, based on the values of many of its characters. Fermín Valdés, for example, is perseverance, loyalty; he didn’t listen to the voices that were telling him to give up… and continued looking for and looking for the bodies of his classmates for fourteen years… until he found his truth in some way.
“If we need symbols, this is an event with great significance to create them. The film suggests a reunion with dignity”.
Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff