“Meñique” , Cuba’s first 3D animated film, was released in Cuban cinemas this month; the Cuban media has hyped the film, which is expected to be a hit with the Cuban population, particularly younger viewers.
Leaving aside potential earnings both domestically and abroad of “Meñique”, the fact that embargo-crippled Cuba is now producing 3D animated films is a milestone achievement.
A 3D movie
“Meñique”(“Pinkie”) is inspired by Edouard de Labouyale’s famous work “Tom Thumb,” which was also adapted by the famous Cuban writer José Martí for his children’s magazineLa Edad de Oro(The Golden Age). Theplot of this children’s movieis fairly simple: A young peasant wants to help his family emerge from poverty, and while attempting to do so, he falls in love with the king’s daughter.
The film debuted on July 20, Children’s Day in Cuba, in cinemas across the island.
“Meñique” was directed and written by the Cuban Ernesto Padrón (brother of Juan Padrón, who directed the Cuban animated film “Vampires in Havana” in 1985). The soundtrack was composed by the Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who also wrote four original songs for the film.
Meñique is a co-production between the Cuban arts institute Estudios de Animación del Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos and the Galician company Ficción Producciones. The film reportedly required six years to complete, and over 200 artists and designers (including 34 from Spain) took part in the project. Other organizations involved in the film included the Cuban Universidad de Ciencias Informaticas and the Venezuelan Fundación Villa del Cine. The budget of “Meñique” was roughly four million dollars USD. As a point of comparison, the 2013 hit “Frozen” had a budget of $150 million USD.
Cuban Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel attended “the premiere of “Meñique” in Havana, declaring, “I am very proud that we have made this film.”
While this is a predictable compliment, it’s important to keep in mind that Díaz-Canel is viewed as the next president of Cuba, as Raul Castro has tipped him as his successor. If he does indeed come to power, the current vice-president may choose to further support Cuban cinema initiatives.
“Meñique” has already been showcased in international events, most notably at Animazine, a film festival in Malaga, Spain. It has also been commercialized in Spain, France, Germany and South Korea.
Latin America’s film industry
Plenty of lists are available online regarding the most famous Latin American films, so we will not delve into them (for examples, check out Forbes’15 Highest-Grossing Mexican films or a Top 25 list of Latin American movies).
Suffice to say, the region has had several internationally successful films over the decades. Among these are Brazil’s “City of God,” Mexico’s “Amores Perros,” Mexico’s “Y Tu Mamá También” and Brazil’s “Pixote”. In 2009, the Argentine film “El Secreto de Tus Ojos” won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, while the Peruvian film “The Sorrow Teat” was also nominated. Cuba also produced the 2011 hit film “Juan of the Dead,” a zombie terror-comedy.
While Latin American filmscanbe successful, they have also received harsh reviews. Namely, some movies have been critiqued for having been made for mainstream mass audiences.
Case in point is the 2014 Peruvian comedy “A Los 40,” which has become the second highest grossing Peruvian film ever. After only eight days, it attracted around 750,000 viewers. Nevertheless, Ivan Thays (a Peruvian writer and TV host) argued that the film’s producer, Miguel Valladares, cannot say that “A Los 40” is a “patriotic film” simply because it was made in Peru and has been successful, as the final product was of low quality. Thays also stated that the film’s success was due to marketing and the casting of popular actors instead of the quality of the movie itself.
As for the recognition of Latin American films in the near future, sadly only one film, “Wild Tales,” will be showcased at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival 2014. The film is an Argentine-Spanish co-production, produced by the famous director Pedro Almodóvar. However, Latin Post highlights that the showcasing of “Wild Tales” in Toronto “is not a world premiere, as the film already screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it received rave reviews.” In other words, no other Latin American film will enjoy a Toronto “bump” to increase its popularity.
It is positive that Latin America’s film industry continues to produce hits that do well not only domestically but also internationally. The Cuban 3D animated film “Meñique” will hopefully be another example of this ongoing momentum.
Latin American films cannot compete with their American counterparts in terms of budget and special effects, but strong and appealing plots, good acting, captivating soundtracks and overall pleasing aesthetics often make these films memorable and financially successful.