Some of the most wonderful, important and perhaps improbable spaces that human beings have been able to create are those that are dedicated to the transmission of knowledge and learning; creating places whose functions include talking and listening, explaining and understanding, debating and exchanging points of view, is something that we usually take for granted. However, such discoveries are among the collective “miracles” that should fascinate us for what they mean and represent.
From the very moment when a human being is born, they have the innate ability to absorb information from their surrounding environs and to reproduce it, and, as they grow, also to question it and to transform it. Apart from the immediate family and community settings, throughout the course of history we have seen the rise of places of learning like universities, academies, schools and colleges … Places where knowledge is passed on and students are provided with the necessary recourses for critique and reflection. And thus better enabling us to reinvent tradition and our understanding of the world.
In 1986, in San Antonio de los Baños, a small town in Cuba not far from Havana, a group of people which included Julio García Espinosa, Fernando Birri and Gabriel García Márquez, had a visionary idea: to open a film and television school that would teach these disciplines in a different way. At a time when the Hollywood industry completely dominated film screens around the planet, making us believe that there was no other way of understanding film or reality, this group of people set in motion a school that defended the cinematographies of South America, Asia and Africa through active and continuous teaching, creative freedom and anti-scholastic pedagogy.
Over its thirty-seven years of existence, since that foundational—and “miraculous”— moment, more than six thousand students have enrolled at the school. People with the ambition to be filmmakers, coming from more than fifty countries, who have had the chance to study filmmaking in a different way. Many of the most outstanding names in contemporary cinema have graced its installations, and we are indebted to its former students for many truly memorable films.
The International Film and TV School in San Antonio de los Baños has carried out a key function in ensuring that film today is much broader and more diverse, richer and more interesting, more complex and enlightening. Its impetus in the defence of cinematographies located in what certain interest groups are determined to always be the “margins”, has been and is of incalculable value, because not only has it achieved evident and immediate effects, but it has also brought about changes that can be seen in the long term. Today when someone in a cinema in Switzerland, Italy or New Delhi sees a film from Chile, Uruguay or even Spain it is highly probable that they are looking at stories and forms of storytelling which have only been made possible thanks to the school in San Antonio de los Baños. Cinema in general, and Latin-American film in particular, is a much more interesting, plural and reflective art thanks to this wonderful school. Which is why our Honorary Award this year goes to this special place. Here’s to many more years of life.