memories-of-underdevelopment-nov-25thThe scene is post-revolution Cuba, at the time of the 1962 missile crisis. Landlord and idler Sergio is now alone in Havana, his wife and family having fled to the USA. He spends his days in feckless activity and womanising, whilst coming to terms with a difficult new environment. Alea, a Castro supporter, weaves political and philosophical comment into the narrative, while including robust scrutiny of the regime. “a landmark that avoids almost all of the radical clichés” – Derek Malcolm. (Cert X)
Dir: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea 97 mins Cuba 1968
to be shown with
A LOVE STORY Artists’ Cinema
Dir: Amar Kanwar (Cert U) 5 mins India 2010

Programme Notes

Thursday November 25th 2010

Cuba 1968 94 minutes Cert. 15

Of the many films produced in Cuba from 1959 onwards as a result of Fidel Castro’s insistence on the importance of cinema, Memories of Underdevelopment is probably one of the most sophisticated and original. So much so, in fact, that those opposed to the revolution tended to characterise it as a triumphant and unrepeatable fluke produced by a film institute (the ICIAC) that was effectively a Marxist government ministry, whereas supporters of the Castro regime cherished it as a cinematic landmark that avoided almost all of the usual radical propaganda clichés.

Set in Havana in 1961, between the disastrous USA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion and the missile crisis of the following year, the film centres on the thoughts and experiences of Sergio, a wealthy property-owning bourgeois, as he is confronted by the new revolutionary reality he does not understand. Isolated and uninvolved, he wants to believe that nothing has changed but he is an alienated outsider, caught between a bourgeois lifestyle and friends he has wearied of yet also scornful of the naivety of those who believe that suddenly everything can be different. Using documentary and semi-documentary footage interwoven with a European style narrative, the film is thus a telling study of a sceptical (and flawed) individual’s place in the march of history and social change.

The ‘underdevelopment’ of the title is a complex pun describing both the individual and national problems of the revolution in its infancy, although in its attack the thrust of the film is anything but literary. Alea’s rich construction proceeds in dazzling cinematic terms and accomplished technique to a witty and perceptive analysis, despite (to the consternation of many contemporary critics) the thread of self-criticism that runs through the film.

Acknowledgements : Derek Malcolm, The Guardian, Rod McShane, Time Out

“The film insists that what we see is a function of how we believe, and
that how we believe is what our history has made of us” – Anon

Sergio Carmona Mendoyo – Sergio Corrieri
Elena – Daisy Granados
Noemi – Eslinda Núñez
Pablo – Omar Valdés
Elena’s brother – René de la Cruz

Director – Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Producer – Miguel Mendoza
Screenplay – Edmundo Desnoes, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Cinematography – Ramón F Suárez
Original Music – Leo Brouwer



“Poignant. Interesting juxtaposition/counterpoint of words and images.”

“Quite therapeutic even though the imagery seemed bleak”

“Enjoyable but, as ever with shorts, difficult to know what to make of it”

“An interesting score. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust – Indian style.”

“Horrible music but otherwise enjoyable”

“Bleak and detached. [Some] great static shots, though.”

“Maybe too short!”

“Totally incomprehensible but mercifully brief”

“Fleetingly obscure”

“Where do you get these shorts?”



“Brilliant directing and acting. Good music but not always fitting the context.”

“Impressively ambivalent!”

“Powerful and evocative of how it was”

“A thoughtful film. Interestingly, political without being partisan.”

“This bit of early revolutionary sophisticated art reminded me of the very early Soviet libertarianism that Stalin soon sat on.”

“The grainy nature of the film made it seem dated but [it had] a flavour of reality.”

“Intriguing though difficult to follow if you didn’t know the historical background in detail. Exacerbated by the dream sequences and flashbacks. I’m not sue how much Sergio’s sense of isolation had anything to do with underdevelopment [of the title] as opposed to his own personality.”

“Seemed fragmented at times but its part-documentary, part-drama structure made [for] an interesting tale of a womaniser’s mid-life crisis set at a turbulent time in Cuba’s history.”

“Fascinating but a tad too long. This film must hold the record for the number of times the word ‘underdevelopment’ was used!”

“Very Nouvelle Vague-ish. Good photography, though.”

“Difficult to feel engaged with the characters. The situations [were] interesting but Sergio et al [were] not. Scrappy at times.”

“Too much preaching – too little narrative”

“Patchy, with too many longeurs – very rarely took off. We didn’t really care …”

“Alternated between dull and boring – the characters were completely unenduring”

“Afraid I didn’t really get this film; [it] seemed too remote from my experience.”

“This was over my head or crap – or both [perhaps]?


A:3, B:16, C:17, D:4, E:3 to give 57%