Cuba film school halts new students in budget woes

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s International School of Cinema is suspending new admissions for a year in response to budgetary woes resulting from international economic difficulties, the school’s interim director said Friday.

The institution, which is mostly funded by nations and independent groups from around the Americas, was hit hard by the global economic downturn in recent years as grants, donations and other sources of financing dried up, Jeronimo Labrada told reporters.

Labrada said the 40 students who were to begin classes in September have been notified and told they have guaranteed spots at the school next year. Those currently enrolled will not be affected.

With the resources freed up by the move, the school intends to offer workshops that generate more income.

“We all know how the world is going, and the school must rethink its finances,” Labrada said.

Students pay 15,000 euros (about $19,700) to attend for the full three-year program, including food, lodging and equipment, but tuition income accounts for just 15 percent of the school’s budget.

Labrada said the announcement was not related to rumors that have swirled this month about the resignation of the school’s director after an audit revealed alleged corruption there.

But Veronica Cordoba, a Bolivian filmmaker who sits on the directive council of the foundation that oversees the school, gave new details on the arrest of three school employees that was first announced earlier this month by a top Culture Ministry official.

Cordoba said the three workers are accused of pilfering drinks from a subsidized store for students and reselling them on the black market to nearby private restaurants.

“There has not been any kind of charge against any teacher or authority figure” at the school, Cordoba said.

She called the resignation by Rafael Rosal Paz, a Guatemalan, a personal and honorable decision.

Low-level theft by workers is common in Cuba, where most islanders earn about $20 a month on average at state jobs, and there is higher-up corruption at government ministries and state-run companies.

President Raul Castro’s administration is currently waging a crackdown on graft that has resulted in dozens of criminal convictions for Cuban executives, government officials and foreign businesspeople.

The International School of Cinema and Television was founded in 1986 with the support of then-President Fidel Castro on the initiative of Latin American cultural figures such as Argentine director Fernando Birri and Nobel-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian. Since then 810 students have graduated.

Among the alumni is director Alejandro Brugues, whose campy zombie flick “Juan of the Dead,” was the runaway favorite at Havana’s 2011 film festival.

Funding comes from international agencies such as Ibermedia; countries including Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Panama; and regional organizations like the ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American nations

The foundation’s directive council, which meets in December, is responsible for picking Rosal Paz’s replacement.


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