Santiago Alvarez

Active - 1965 - 1984  |   Born - Mar 18, 1919 in Havana, Cuba  |   Died - May 20, 1998   |   Genres - Culture & Society [nf], History [nf]

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Santiago Alvarez was an influential figure in the development of Cuban cinema and - even after his death - remains the country's preeminent documentary filmmaker; he is known for his innovative genius. While he was a young man, Alvarez lived and studied in the U.S. He went back to Cuba in the mid-1940s and began working at a local television station as a music librarian. At that time he was also an active member of the communist party and of "Nuestro Tiempo," a political and cultural society. Following the Cuban Revolution, the 40-year-old Alvarez began making documentaries, despite the fact that he had no formal training. In 1959, he co-founded the Instituto del Arte y Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC), a filmmaking collective devoted to making revolutionary films. For a time he was the head of the ICAIC's newsreel division. Alvarez's documentaries are characterized by their pro-Castro, anti-imperialist themes. Stylistically, the films are fast-paced, almost jittery animated collages that combine an eclectic blend of visual images ranging from cartoons to photographs to Hollywood film clips with unusual editing and the judicious use of sound. His unique style can be seen in his satirical 1968 short LBJ.