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We are in a moment that feels fraught with political upheaval and turmoil on a global scale. Though we feel overwhelmed at times, we want to share with you the good, positive and productive projects that are happening in hidden and often neglected corners of the world. Many inspiring and unifying projects are happening in the arts. As some in political power work to undermine hard-won democracy and cultural space, artists throughout the Americas are defiantly pushing back with bold music, dance, film, and visual arts.

AMI continues to be part of this arts vanguard. Film continues to play a fundamental role in creating political space and cultural exchange. Thanks to your on-going support over the past eight years, AMI has witnessed first-hand, the power of film in facilitating this important dialogue between Cuban and U.S. citizens. 

We cannot deny that the recent closure of the U.S. Embassy in Havana has hampered one of AMI’s most important missions— to assist emerging Cuban filmmakers in gaining exposure in the U.S. But we want to assure you this closure has not prevented AMI from planning an exciting ground-breaking new project for 2019— the Cuban Visions Film Series. Cuban Visions will bring to Chicago Cuban filmmakers, Cuban films, as well as Cuban scholars in a year-long series at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago! Cuban Visions will feature thought-provoking and rarely seen Cuban films, challenging a U.S. audience’s long-held misconceptions about past and present Cuban reality.

Here are a few of the collaborations we are most proud of from 2018:

•    AMI partnered with Afro-Cuban queer documentary filmmaker Damián Sainz on Cuba’s first Independent Queer (Cuir) Cine Club. It’s always complicated doing an independent cultural project in Cuba. But Damián’s commitment to the process and willingness to work through Cuba’s labyrinth of permissions has allowed the Club to flourish. 

•    Another collaboration we are honored to participate in is the Cuban Digital Audiovisual Encyclopedia ( ENDAC is an open-source, interactive digital encyclopedia created by renowned Cuban film critic and author, Juan Antonio García Borrero. This collaboration may be the first time an open-source website created in Cuba has been uploaded directly to a server based in the U.S! 

•    AMI added a new Cuban documentary to our catalogue with Icarus Films, La Singular Historia de Juan sin nada (The Unique Story of Unlucky Juan). Directed by Ricardo Figueredo, The Unique Story of Unlucky Juan is a comprehensive, accessible examination of the particularities of the Cuban economy. In attendance at our screening in Washington, DC last July (in collaboration with the Center for Democracy in the Americas) were congressional aides, including an aide from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office.

For the fourth year in a row, AMI gave a prize at the Muestra Joven (Young Directors Film Festival) in Havana. The AMI Closing Distances cash prize went to support the production of the documentary film, Hacia la luz (Towards the Light) Directed by Santiago-based Aracelys Avilés. AMI remains the only U.S. based organization giving cash prizes at Cuban film festivals. 

Chiapas Media Project/Promedios 20th Anniversary 
2018 was the 20th anniversary year for the Chiapas Media Project (CMP), an award winning, bi-national partnership that provided video equipment, computers and training to marginalized indigenous communities in Southern Mexico, so they could create their own media. Promedios ( a Mexican NGO, took over for CMP in Mexico, continuing the support and training through their school of popular communication, Votan Kop.

As part of our 20th anniversary year, all of CMP’s extensive media and paper archive in Chicago were sent to the new indigenous media archive at New York University (NYU)— the first of its kind in the U.S! Over the next year we hope to begin archiving some of the Promedios materials currently stored in Chiapas.

To help celebrate CMP’s 20th anniversary we organized a West Coast tour with Paco Vazquez, Director of Promedios. In October we visited seven universities from Riverside, California to Seattle, as well as two cinemas. The tour reached close to 1000 people with engaged and lively post-screening discussions.

Keeping the ball rolling! 
2018 was a banner year for AMI supporting never-before-done initiatives in Cuba. AMI continues to be on the forefront of progressive and innovative cultural exchange projects, with a track record that is hard to match. We couldn’t say this without acknowledging the importance of individual donors such as you! 

Please consider supporting AMI with a tax-deductible contribution to Americas Media Initiative. Every amount counts!