Traverse City Film Festival: Cuban Filmmakers Panel Discussion with Michael Moore

Michael Moore (right) talks with Cuban filmmaker Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti (middle), with an interpreter at Thursday’s panel discussion at the Traverse City Film Festival.

The Traverse City Film Festival’s Friday morning panel discussion brought together Michael Moore and four Cuban filmmakers in a wide ranging two-hour dialog that touched upon such hot button issues as U.S. prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a CIA airplane bombing that killed the father of one of the panelists (Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, pictured), the evolution of gay rights in Cuba, film censorship in Cuba versus film censorship in the United States and, of course, how to pay for film production. So, yes, a fine and provocative panel discussion.

Here are my two favorite moments from the discussions.

Censorship. One of the women on the panel was vice-president of the Cuban film office and she explained how the government funds a great deal of film in Cuba, and has for 50 years. The system naturally brought up the question of censorship–which one of the other panelists, a filmmaker, raised, saying that the office often steers clear of difficult issues like drug use or baseball players that play in the United States and are then never allowed back in Cuba.

Michael Moore weighed in, saying that Americans must also remember that in the U.S., while the government doesn’t exercise censorship over film, funding corporations do censor films if they feel the film is counter to their best interests, just as a government censorship office might do. “See how much money you’ll get from Warner Brothers if you go to them with a proposal to do a negative movie about them,” he said.

He told the tale of his Farenheit 911 film, which was sharply critical of the Bush Administration’s handling of pre- and post- 9/11 events. After the film was completed, Disney refused to release it. A story in the New York Times went public with the issue and revealed that Disney was trying to get a big tax break for an expansion of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where Jeb Bush, the then-president’s brother was governor at the time. The story forced the release of the film.

The other favorite moment was when Malberti explained that he needed $10,000 to finish a film he is working on. On the spot, Moore said that he would put a link on the Traverse City Film Festival site that would allow people to donate money for Cuban filmmakers into a Paypal account and that Moore’s foundation would match the donations up to $10,000, to raise a total of $20,000.

“I want the credits to say, ‘Traverse City, Michigan,'” Moore said.

The logistics of how to get the money to Cuba, which still is subject to United States economic restrictions will be ironed out later, I’m pretty sure(?).

Wait, there was a third favorite moment. Moore and the Cubans discussed the possibility of bringing films from the annual Cuban film festival in New York City to Traverse City after things wrap up in NYC. Stay tuned.

Check out the entire Traverse City Film Festival line up.

— Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine

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One thought on “Traverse City Film Festival: Cuban Filmmakers Panel Discussion with Michael Moore”

  1. Every year there seems to be a couple iconic things about that particular Traverse City Film Festival. This year, the Cubans have to be very high on that list. Not only have they brought films, but their participation on the panel and in other discussions really does insert a new perspective, and a really rare inside look that too few of us get into that country. Thanks for sharing this, Jeff.

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