Memories of Underdevelopment – Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968)

Memories of Underdevelopment … is a 1968 Cuban film. Directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the story is based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes entitled Inconsolable Memories (Inconsolable Memorias). It was Alea’s fifth film, and probably his most famous worldwide. The film gathered several awards at international film festivals.Sergio, a wealthy bourgeois aspiring writer, decides to stay in Cuba even though his wife and friends flee to Miami. Sergio looks back over the changes in Cuba, from the Cuban Revolution to the missile crisis, the effect of living in an underdeveloped country, and his relations with his girlfriends Elena and Hanna. Memories of Underdevelopment is a complex character study of alienation during the turmoil of social changes. The film is told in a highly subjective point of view through a fragmented narrative that resembles the way memories function. Throughout the film, Sergio narrates action, and at times is used as a tool to present bits of political information about the climate in Cuba at the time. In several instances, real-life documentary footage of protests and political events are incorporated into the film and played over Sergio’s narration to expose the audience to the reality of the Revolution. The timeframe of the film is somewhat ambiguous, but it appears to take place over a few months. … Because many Cubans already had a revolutionary mentality by the time the film was released, it was regarded more as a representation of an outdated stream of thought. Memories of Underdevelopment was popular in the United States. Many American critics were ‘suitably impressed by the film as a stylistic tour de force as well as a subtle and complex portrait of an uncommitted intellectual from a bourgeois background swept up in a vortex of revolutionary change and the threat of nuclear extinction at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.’ In an interview with Cineaste Magazine in 1977, Alea is quoted saying that ‘Memories was in general much better understood and evaluated in the US because people perceived the attempt to criticize the bourgeois mentality.’ Alea was also surprised that many people went to see the film more than once in an effort to further understand its meaning. The film was selected for screening as part of the Cannes Classics section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. …”
W – Cinema of Cuba
W – Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
NY Times: Outside Cuba’s Revolution, Looking In
NY Times: ‘Memories,’ Cuban Film, Draws a Bead on Alienation
YouTube: Memories of Underdevelopment 1:34

Cine Praga in Pinar del Rio, Cuba

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