Yale Latin American Film Series Highlights Independent Films



Independent filmmaker Miguel Coyula on the set of one of his movies
Ana Arellano
Whatever their status is in Hollywood, Latinos like Cuban-born Miguel Coyula are at the leading edge of independent filmmaking. Coyula, 36, has written and directed two features, Red Cockroaches, a science fiction film, and Memories of Overdevelopment, a sequel to the classic Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment. Together, these two films have won more than three dozen awards in the United States and film festivals throughout the world.
Memories of Overdevelopment and Coyula’s work-in-progress, Blue Heart were chosen to inaugurate Yale University’s Latin American and Iberian Film Festival, which began recently.  In addition, Coyula gave a workshop for Yale film students immediately before the screening. Hosted by Margherita Tortora, Director of the New England Festival of Ibero-American Cinema, (NEFIAC) this workshop was an opportunity for the film students to receive a firsthand account of Coyula’s approach to creating a film. “Miguel Coyula is an artisan of film composition,” says Tortora. “He painstakingly, digitally enhances each shot so as to convey exactly the right climate for the story he is constructing. This is not rapid, formulaic Hollywood-style commercial cinema.”
Coyula is able to be an “artisan” because, as he says, “I have complete control over every aspect of the film.” Additionally, says Coyula, “I do not have to follow the linear approach of scriptwriting, shooting, and editing.” Projecting the screen of his laptop unto the wall so the film students could view how he was putting together his new feature, “Blue Heart,” he demonstrated how he inserts new footage even after editing.
This meticulous approach means Coyula took two years to complete Red Cockroaches. Variety‘s review called this film “An undeniably inventive, visually stunning sci-fier,…Red Cockroaches reps a triumph of technology in the hands of a visionary with know-how.” After this film, Coyula was granted a Guggenheim fellowship to complete Memories of Overdevelopment.
Coyula knew he wanted to be a filmmaker even as a child. “I was fascinated by images, both photo and video.” He made his first short in Cuba at age 17 with a VHS camcorder. This gained him entry into the prestigious  International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba (EICTV). At the film school, says Coyula, “We shot entirely in 35 mm film.” With this format, he could not go back and forth between producing and editing a film, as he does now. “I had to ask the actors to get back in the exactly the same positions every time I took a break from shooting.”
Coyula was again able to use the video format when he won a scholarship to the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in New York. Tortora says that films from independent Latino filmmakers like Coyula (as well as Portuguese and Spanish filmakers) are extraordinarily rich and varied, and are virtually unknown in the United States. This prompted her to become involved with NEFIAC, recently taking the post of Director of the Festival, and why she has assembled The Latin American and Iberian Film Series. All films are free, open to the public, and have English subtitles. The complete schedule is included in the poster below.
For more information, contact Margherita.Tortora@yale.edu.