Free Internet Access for All is a Right

October 14, 2013 | Print Print |

An interview with Cuban filmmaker Yaima Pardo, director of the documentary OFF_LINE

Dmitri Prieto

Yaima Pardo

HAVANA TIMES — I met Yaima Pardo for the first time when she invited me to take part in the documentary film OFF_LINE. I was much impressed with the professionalism of the crew. Today, OFF_LINE is one of the most “hardcore” films in Cuba’s virtual scene.

The documentary would have been released earlier had the filmmaker not had to wait for an interview, which was ultimately never granted. Finally, the crew decided to release the film through the island’s flashnet, as the trafficking of digital materials via USB (flash) drives – in a territory that continues to be mostly offline – is referred to in Cuba.

As the documentary clearly demonstrates, the truth is that the recent opening of Internet locales for Cubans, charging 4.50 Cuban Convertible Pesos (5.00 USD) the hour, does not solve the island’s connectivity problem. I asked Yaima (a young woman who works at Cuban television, and does things like OFF_LINE in her free time) for an interview, honored to continue to have the opportunity of participating in the (now finished) film and pushing the causes she defends forward.

HT: Where did the idea to make OFF_LINE come from?

Yaima Pardo: The idea for OFF_LINE came to me during a stay at Pamplona University in Colombia. There, I saw and downloaded a web 2.0 Internet documentary (Kevin McDonald’s “Life in a Day”) for the first time. Citizens from around the world, save Cuba, filmed their daily experiences and uploaded them to a YouTube channel.

There, I was able to see how the University’s information platform worked and all of the online programs they were offering as part of the Millennium Development Goals set by Colombian society.

I also saw how all universities there are connected via online television channels, where you can find out what is going on in all campuses around the country over the Internet. I thought about the possibility of doing that in Cuba. Generally speaking, I was able to see how a real Internet connection was put to use and to realize how far behind we are as a society in comparison to the rest of the world.

With Didier Santos, I had made a documentary about aging in Cuba (“At the End of the Road”), and felt this line of research could be applied to all aspects of our society. That’s when I decided to do a documentary on technological obsolescence and Cuba’s lack of Internet connectivity.

HT: Tell us about the crew and your experiences during the shoot.

Yaima Pardo: I always try to work with people that I admire and can contribute to the film, people who fall in love with the project the way I do, and who work hard to get it completed. For this film, the first person I called was Aminta D’Cardenas. She has experience in independent productions. She was one of the producers in Matraka, the production company responsible for Cuba’s Rotilla music festival, which was, sadly, discontinued. We had worked together once before in a public awareness campaign for that festival. I decided to give her a call because I feel she is a producer who cares about the quality of the work, and that’s vital for me.

Together, we started to put together the rest of the crew. We called Helman Avelle and asked him to do the graphic design, editing and post-production. We had already seen the magnificent quality of his work. We’ve had both a life and work experience with him and his family that I would love to repeat.

The idea for the interview set came from wanting to place those interviewed within a context that would illustrate the virtual nature of the Internet. We called Armando Castro, from Ciego de Avila, who’s part of the Rezaka project. He projected images on top of the interviewees. He had the freedom to create his own discourse, like a visual artist, connecting the images selected to address the issue with the ideas the interviewees developed.

We wanted to work with still photographers who had experience in documentaries. We came across two spectacular photographers, Arien Chan and Raul Cañibano. Their urban landscapes were really quite essential to our documentary. The film’s direct sound and sound design were entrusted to Esteban Vazquez, a colleague of mine whom I continue to work with because of the quality of his work and the positive energy he brings to the shoot.

The music is by young artists from Cuba’s underground who address social issues in their work. We wanted to give them some exposure in our documentary. We worked with Barbaro El Urbano Vargas, Danay Suarez, Maykel Xtremo con la Alianza, Silvito el Libre and Francis del Rio. We had the fortune of having Roberto Fonseca compose an original piece for OFF_LINE. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his contribution to the film.

We also used the works of visual artists whose pieces were related to the issues in the documentary, like Lazaro Saavedra, Abel Barroso and Jaime Prendes.

We selected the interviewees on the basis of the veracity of what they said, their ethical stances and their genuine concern over Cuba’s future, as well as how they used the Internet to exercise their right to express themselves. We were lucky to be able to interview Mauricio Abad, Daniel Diaz Mantilla, Dmitri Prieto Samsonov, Danay Suárez, Alien Garcia Agüero, Yani Monzon, Josefina Toledo Benedit, Gustavo Arcos, Roberto Salas. They all granted us excellent interviews and we learned a lot from them.

Generally speaking, the work became more and more complicated in all areas because we didn’t want to leave anything unsaid. The crew’s attitude was always one of “let’s do it.” The cinematographers went everywhere to get the images we needed to illustrate our ideas – we shot every idea we had. The editing demanded an extremely thorough search for materials and a truly complicated postproduction process.

It was a complex experience. It is the film that most closely resembles what I envisaged at the beginning.

Today, I see it as a kind of open book that won’t close until all of us are online.

HT:  Did you run into any obstacles along the way?

The interview we asked for at the Ministry of Communication is my only unfulfilled wish. I hope they will one day grant me that interview. I hadn’t expected them to say no, really.

HT: How do you reconcile your independent documentary work with your “day job” at the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT)? Any dreams or plans for the future?

Yaima Pardo: I like public television, I love it, as a medium, and I imagine what Cuban television could become in the future without such rigid production schemes and so many complications arising from the content of the broadcasts. For me it, it’s been a place where I’ve learned how to do fictional materials, where I’ve grown as a professional. I admire many professionals that do work for television, people who have been my teachers and friends, like Elena Palacios, Roly Peña, Ernesto Fiallo, Alejandro Gil, Mariela Lopez and Charly Medina.

But, as an independent filmmaker, I have the freedom to do and say exactly what I want and how I want to. For my independent work, I usually work with the same crew I work with in television.

I am working on a made-for-television film with writer Lil Romero. I love the story. It’s about teenagers and their relationships in school.

As an independent filmmaker, I am working with director Lilian Broche, in a documentary titled “Antigone: the Process”. It’s based on Rogelio Orizondo’s “Antigonon: An Epic Contigent”, a play staged by director Carlos Diaz and his theater company. Rogelio and Carlos wanted to re-interpret Antigone as a burier of utopias. We were fascinated by the idea. We decided to join the adventure as an epic brigade of Antigones, women brought together by their determination to make films in Cuba.

HT: Generally speaking, what do you want our society to be like in 5 years? Do you think we are moving towards or away from a freer society?

Yaima Pardo: I love my country and peace and prosperity is what I want most for it and my people.

It would be nice not to have to wait 5 years for freedom of expression, the legalization of same-sex marriages and everything that the majority feels should be legalized, to have real leaders with genuine proposals, projects and discourses that we can support or reject.

I would like for our Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to become community projects aimed at helping people, not monitoring them, for them to become committees that protect the most vulnerable people. I would like to see people in the sex trade, who today are many and abandoned to their own resources, become unionized. I would want for us not to have an army or be under threat from foreign intervention, for there to be a single currency and for the new bills to show images of women who have been important to Cuba’s history, artists, scientists and philosophers. I want for my friends not to have to emigrate in search of opportunities.

We’re changing very slowly. Now, we’re worried about efficiency and quality, not about people and their needs. That’s cause for concern. There’s inertia everywhere, a whole lot of fear of change, a whole lot of hypocrisy, double standards, many people in many government assemblies voting unanimously for things, and I just don’t buy it. I would like to a live a vanguard country, in a society with a future ahead of it, where all of us can work together to build the future we want.

HT: What would happen if you were to wake up tomorrow and found out full Internet access has been made available to every citizen of Cuba?

Yaima Pardo: I would be extremely happy. I’ve never felt comfortable enjoying something that others are denied. That’s why fighting for universal access to the Internet in Cuba is a moral commitment for me and I take on this commitment with the tools at my disposal: with films. I think it would be a quantum leap forward for our economy and our social and cultural relations, for our thinking in general. I don’t understand how they hope to build socialism in the 21st century without Internet access for everyone. And let me add this: the day Internet is made available to everyone, I will fight for it to be free, because I consider it a right, I insist that it’s a right.

—–
Contactos:
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/cubaoffline
YouTube: pardoyaima
Email: cubaoffline@gmail.com
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3izs-5MY0I

—–
Contactos:
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/cubaoffline
YouTube: pardoyaima
Email: cubaoffline@gmail.com
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3izs-5MY0I – See more at: http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=91224#sthash.A7qMc15X.dpuf
—–
Contactos:
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/cubaoffline
YouTube: pardoyaima
Email: cubaoffline@gmail.com
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3izs-5MY0I – See more at: http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=91224#sthash.A7qMc15X.dpuf


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    It is very sad that talented and creative professionals like Yaima must speak in that meta-language that Cubans use to express themselves while all the while maintaining their government jobs and opportunity, if not their very freedom. Over the weekend, a US Congressman having served only 8 months in the House was openly critical of President Obama and went so far as to say “the President consistently does not tell the truth”. I disagree completely with this Congressman but I applaud his right to express what he believes. It is very sad that Yaimi does not have this freedom to openly criticize her President and his policies.