Alfredo Guevara: Film director and close associate of Fidel Castro


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The Independent Online

Alfredo Guevara, who died on 19 April at the age of 87, was a prominent film-maker, intellectual and cultural leader in Cuba. He was a close associate of Fidel and Raul Castro when they were rebel leaders and a backer of the struggle to remove Fulgencio Batista. After the 1959 revolution he became a leading cultural official and defender of the arts. He founded the Cuban Art and Cinematography Institute in 1959 and later the Festival of New Latin American Cinema. In the 1970s he was a vice minister of government.

Guevara was arrested and tortured by the police during the struggle to overthrow Batista. He was one of a small group of insiders who mapped radical reforms in the months after Castro came to power in 1959.

Guevara studied theatre direction and worked with the Cuban film-makers Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa on El Mégano, a 1955 film about charcoal workers that is considered the first modern Cuban documentary. While Castro was fighting in the Sierra Maestra, Guevara was in Mexico, where he worked with Luis Buñuel on his 1959 film Nazarín.

After Castro took power, Guevara spent more time stewarding the film industry than making films. Castro, who saw cinema as a tool of mass education and as a means of creating a national consciousness, appointed him to create the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, which used state financing to become a virtual film monopoly and the most influential cultural institute on the island.