Films, accidents and police cases

The parallel world of new technologies.

The car advancing at full speed hits two persons who are trying to cross the street in front of a bus. The brutal blow throws the bodies in the air and after a spectacular pirouette one sees them fall a few metres ahead. One of them is hit for the second time and dragged by the same vehicle when the driver is incapable of avoiding the collision…. No, this is not a scene from a film on a stone cardboard set for a fiction film. It’s real life and it happens in a centric street of Havana.

I received images like these on a flash drive, that marvellous invention that, for lack of other possibilities, has become one of the most used devices among us to gain access to all type of audiovisual material including certain information that the media does not publish. Documentaries, series, films and all sorts of programmes that circulate freely on digital supports without the intervention of some state institution that approves or disapproves its contents are lent, sold or rented. Moreover, email, despite the difficulties to have access to the Internet, perhaps has become the most used means to pass on information in an undreamed way among Cubans barely 20 years ago. This surge is growing in a practically uncontrollable way and in the face of the drive of the new technologies, the official media is losing its protagonist role, even when a great deal of the population on the island remains on the margin of the advantages presupposed by access to the digital world and the use of electronic mail is even trying to be limited as a means of communicating news.

But my intention this time is not to speak of the continent but rather of the content. Without having made a survey, and at the risk of discovering lukewarm water, I almost dare to affirm with a minimum margin of error that the materials most sought after by consumers are films, soap operas and TV series. Thanks to that illegal but expedite means, the films that have just been awarded Oscars, the most tear-jerking soap operas or excellently made series, from the already classical The Wire to the most modern The House of Cards, still being broadcast by a U.S. TV chain, have been able to be seen here.

However, the public’s interest is not limited to foreign materials since it also knows how to enjoy the made-in-Cuba productions, especially those that, for diverse and at times mysterious reasons, have not been shown in the official media or have circulated in a restricted way. This was the case, for example, of the documentary by Ian Padrón dedicated to the Industriales team, Fuera de Liga, which reached a great many people through this means until its filmmaker was able to present it on television.

I’m afraid that the list of cases like this one could be a bit long but I just would like to cite another two examples of audiovisuals that though they were not recorded with the aim of being shown to the public at large, can be considered “documentaries” in the most precise sense of the term, and therefore are testimonies of some real event that in an illegal manner and thanks to the new technologies also circulate among us.

As can be surmised from the start of this commentary, one of the mentioned videos shows a series of tragic traffic accidents captured by cameras placed in some points of the capital. It is evidently a material for the use of the competent authorities and whose greatest interest for someone not related to this means is to corroborate the absurd irresponsibility of drivers and pedestrians on the public way, which endangers everyone’s safety.

The second example is even more interesting since it includes several recordings of criminal events detected by the police in different sectors of the country’s economy, almost all of them related to cases of corruption, fraud and illegal deals devised to obtain money or other benefits. In many situations it’s about persons who from their leadership posts had the possibility of stealing products and resources, falsifying documents, trafficking in influences, as well as bribing and corrupting other workers. And what’s most curious is that the offenders explain in their statements that they were able to act in that way due to lack of real controls and the relative facility with which they bribed or involved subordinates or their own bosses in the crime.

The high circulation of these and other recordings of diverse content is a sign of the Cuban public’s need to have access to a series of subjects absent from the media, and a clear warning that the doors of the media will have to be opened if there is a serious aim to shorten the distances between what is officially published and the daily life events that can be of real interest for the population.

I understand that perhaps the images of a person being run over in real life can be considered inadequate, because of their crudeness, though I think about the convenience of using its impact to reinforce campaigns and programmes made by television with the aim of preventing traffic accidents. Perhaps the insertion of a good dose of these testimonies, far from any sensationalistic focus proper of a media show, would increase the scope of those prevention campaigns and would make them more dissuasive and effective in their mission to activate the perception of the danger associated to a reckless behaviour on the public way.

As to the second example, its interest is evident for any Cuban, which is why they should also be made public and their broadcast could be complemented with an in-depth and brave analysis about the diverse causes that favour carrying out this type of crime in our society.

In the first place the occurrence of such events not only can be attributed to the crisis of values (that exists), or to personal ambition (that is not lacking); because if there is really an interest in explaining this phenomenon, it is not sufficient to attack its most evident manifestation but rather its causes. And these are numerous and complex, from the lack of the already mentioned effective controls to the unquestionable impossibility of any worker to confront the cost of living in Cuba with the current wages, something that frequently prompts them to seek solutions that even go beyond the legal limits. And while this circumstance does not justify a criminal behaviour, it must be considered among the factors that favour it.

The truth of the matter is that this type of situation concerns equally the baker who sells flour “under the counter” as well as the administrator of a department store whose house needs repairs and he cannot afford the necessary materials to carry them out with his wage. This way of confronting the solution to the numerous daily problems has spread so much among us that the biblical phrase fits well here: “let him who is without sin, cast the first stone,” since who hasn’t bought on the black market powdered milk, “resolved” a tank of liquefied gas or a bottle of oil…, all of which are basic need products. The temptation has even knocked on the door of some persons who seemed to be close to good and far from evil: leaders from the Young Communist League, People’s Power and the Party. We have received succinct information about some of these cases and we have received vague rumours about others, since it is a subject that is rarely openly publicised in the public media, though they have now started to be known through alternative means like the flash drives, emails, etc.

With films made on the margin of the industry, the impacting images of a traffic accident or of some police operations, the truth is that a sort of independent circuit has been created that is increasingly being consolidated with the support of the new technologies and to which for the time being the official media is not party to. Parallel worlds that never seem to meet. (2014)

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