Alfredo Guevara Valdés, a Fidel Castro supporter since their youth and one of the founders of the internationally known Cuban Institute for the Arts and Industry of Cinematography (ICAIC), died Friday in Havana. He was 87 years old.
Guevara, who also launched the Havana film festival, was admitted last week to a clinic for top government officials, suffering from a chronic heart condition, and died from heart failure, said long-time friend Max Lesnik.
Cuban President Raúl Castro visited Guevara in the clinic before he died, added Lesnik, a Miami radio commentator who like Fidel Castro and Guevara was a student activist in the University of Havana in the 1940s and 50s.
Lesnik said a mutual friend, Havana historian Eusebio Leal, told him Guevara’s body will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered on the steps that lead up to the University of Havana, a protest site for activists in those turbulent decades.
Although Guevara is sometimes credited with avoiding some of the extreme censorship and “socialist realism” of Soviet cinema, Cuban films of his era generally stuck to anti-imperialist themes.
In a written homage to Guevara, Lesnik described him as the intellectual sparkplug of a group of revolutionary young people: “In between the loud dins of street protests against social injustices or the bad works of a bad government, we dreamed of making revolutions.”
An anarchist in high school, Guevara became a Marxist at the university, Lesnik added. And after Castro toppled the Batista government, he became a supporter “of what he called Fidel’s Revolution.’’
Guevara was born in Havana on New Years’ Eve 1925, and has credited his ideology to a father who taught him that giving way on principles amounts to “becoming a living cadaver.”
He studied theater directing but his interest turned to film in 1955 when he participated in El Mégano, a documentary about the poor vegetable carbon makers in the Zapata swamps and a seminal part of Cuba’s film history.
Three months after Castro’s guerrillas toppled the Batista government, he founded ICAIC as the state monopoly on all movie-making activities, and ran it until 1980.
He was named vice minister of culture in 1975 and in 1979 founded the Havana Festival for New Latin American Cinema. He also was named ambassador to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1983.
In a recorded interview with Lesnik, Guevara declared that he was “above all a socialist revolutionary.”