“Havana Stories,” the latest film by FIU doctoral student Eliecer Jiménez Almeida, will have its world premiere at the 40th Annual Miami Film Festival. Jiménez Almeida, a student in the Department of Modern Languages in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, was invited to compete for the prestigious annual Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award, for films that “have a substantial portion of their content in South Florida and that best utilize their story and theme for universal resonance.” Jiménez Almeida’s previous feature film, “Veritas,” was nominated for the Documentary Achievement Award and was the seventh most viewed film in last year´s festival.
Although Jiménez Almeida is often described as an experimental filmmaker, his work is accessible and engaging. “Havana Stories” combines elements of documentary and fiction. “It could be called a mockumentary,” said Dr. Santiago Juan-Navarro, a Professor of Hispanic Studies and Jiménez Almeida’s mentor at FIU.
Jiménez Almeida grew up in the countryside outside of Camagüey, Cuba’s third largest city. “I grew up listening to the propaganda of the system and to my father, the two speeches in parallel,” he said. His father, a farmer, was fiercely anti-Castro. Jiménez Almeida’s own rebellious streak emerged when he made his first short film while studying journalism at the University of Camagüey. “Toilet-ando sin ganas” (2008), an irreverent look at the university’s bathrooms, got him expelled when he attempted to show it at a local film festival.
Two years later, after filing an appeal with the Ministry of Higher Education, he was allowed to graduate in 2013 with a thesis on the Cuban documentary. By then he had made two more films, including “Usufructo” (2011), a short film about his father, which won the Special Prize from the International Film and Television School (EICTV) of San Antonio de los Baños, in the 10th International Gibara Festival Low-Budget Cinema, 2012.
The prize consisted of a scholarship to study documentary film at the EICTV, one of the world’s most important film schools. “From that moment on,” Jiménez Almeida said, “cinema for me, beyond genres, has been a political space where I prioritize the human being, and I try to enter the national debate to discuss issues that many ignore due to opportunism and/or cynicism. Almost all my work has to do with denying Castroism.”
Since 2014, Jiménez Almeida has lived in Miami, where he has worked as a producer for the Hispanic television network Univisión and as a teacher. A prominent member of the Cuban filmmaking diaspora, he has been a visiting filmmaker at Yale University, Columbia University, New York University (NYU), City University of New York (CUNY), University of Miami (UM), Florida International University (FIU), Rutgers and Georgia Tech. His films have been shown in the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, China, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Jiménez Almeida’s work has received multiple awards in Cuba, the USA, and abroad. In 2018, New York’s Museum of Modern Art included his film “Persona” (2014) in its film series “A Brief History of Censorship in Cuba.”
Jiménez Almeida received a master’s degree in Spanish Journalism from FIU in 2022 and is now working toward his PhD. “I believe that FIU’s Ph.D. in Spanish provides a rigorous and comprehensive education in the traditional disciplines of Spanish and Latin American literary studies, while also allowing for an engagement with larger issues relating to the role of the humanities in the contemporary world,” he said.
He serves as co-director of the Cuban Diaspora Film Archive, which was founded by Juan-Navarro. The archive is a research, teaching, and learning project that integrates education in Cuban cinema and culture, new media, and archival primary research with an online scholarly publishing effort that provides a global view of contemporary Cuban culture and its connection with Latinx communities.
“Havana Stories” will be screened at the Miami Film Festival on March 12th at 2:45pm.