Films: Unfinished Spaces

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Unfinished Spaces  {Global Reach}

Unfinished Spaces
Global Reach

USA, 2011, 86 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Architecture/Design, Art/Filmmaking, Drama, Historical/Period
Program: Documentary Films
Language: Spanish, English English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Benjamin Murray, Alysa Nahimas
Producer: Alysa Nahimas, Benjamin Murray
Editor: Alex Minnick, Kristen Nutile
Cinematographer: Benjamin Murray
Principal Cast: 

Thursday, Sept. 13 @ 7pm
Gary Petri, Principal at SLATERPAULL Architects, Inc. will conduct a discussion following the screening.
Reception to follow at Limon Restaurant

As the codirectors of Unfinished Spaces, Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray spent ten years chronicling the fate of Cuba’s National Art Schools, a cultural experiment 60 years in the making. Through a combination of archival footage, interviews with the project’s three architects, photos of the elaborate schools, and the words of Fidel Castro himself, this compelling documentary sheds light on Cuba’s erratic cultural history.

Castro came up with the idea for the project during a round of golf with Che Guevara. Deciding that the Havana golf course was the ideal spot to build “the best art schools in the world,” he enlisted the talents of Ricardo Porro and Italians Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti for his architectural committee. They were to build five interconnected schools: one for dramatic arts, one for modern dance, one for ballet, one for music, and one for sculpture. With unlimited funds and an unrealistic deadline, they began. The National Art Schools represented Cuba’s newfound artistic freedom. Porro designed the sculpture school to feature a series of domed “breasts.” Forced to build with clay because of the U.S. embargo, workers embarked on “a great guerilla spirit of adventure.”

But history would thwart completion. Soon after the Bay of Pigs, Castro’s Ministry of Construction demanded all buildings be prefabricated, Soviet Union–style. The government militarized the schools, expelled gays, and disenfranchised the architects. In 1965, construction ceased. Nature soon swallowed up the schools. And after the collapse of the Soviet Union, squatters took residence and looted what was left. Half-hearted attempts at restoration were curtailed in the wake of two hurricanes and Cuba’s increasing economic woes—along with the dreams of the architects themselves.

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