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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

This weekend, the Hippodrome State Theatre will host a Cuban film festival downtown. The festival, which runs from Friday at 6 p.m. until Sunday at 7 p.m., will feature three Cuban films: “Before Night Falls,” “Cicho and Rita” and “Playing Lecuona;” a biopic, animated film and music documentary, respectively.

This weekend’s film festival is presented by Bulla Cubana, a new Gainesville organization that has put on events to celebrate Cuban culture since January. Bulla Cubana will have events running until March 31 that include film screenings, art exhibitions, food and drink specials and academic conferences.

“The project started on Jan. 6 at the University Gallery, and it will end on March 31 at the Whiskey House with a mojito celebration,” said Randy Batista, the project organizer. “There are numerous events between now and then, like conferences at the university, and Sweet Dreams, which is a local ice cream shop, will be featuring Cuban flavored ice creams in the last week in March.”

Bulla Cubana’s intent in putting on these events is to share Cuban culture with Gainesville residents.

Though there are plenty of residents with Cuban backgrounds, there are many who are not so familiar with Cuban art, films and food.

Bulla Cubana works to bring more awareness and appreciation of Cuban culture to Gainesville.

“What we do is about showcasing the unique talents of Cuban artists,” Batista said. “We decided to run all of these Cuban-inspired events to give people an opportunity to dabble in different Cuban culture over the span of three months.”

Several of the events Bulla Cubana put on and will put on this year include Cuban Americans sharing their own work and experiences in person.

In January, Cuban pianist Jesus “Chuchito” Valdes performed at Santa Fe College.

On March 18, Gainesville resident and Cuban native Raul Villarreal told of his father’s experience working as a groundskeeper in Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban home.

On Saturday at 10:30 a.m., Cuban photographer Ernesto Reyes will give a gallery talk at the Hippodrome Gallery about his work.

“As a Cuban-American, I appreciate what Bulla Cubana is trying to do,” said Gainesville resident Eric Entenberg, 21. “A lot of Americans think Cuban culture is just about food, but there is much more to it than that.”

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Entry into each film will cost $9, and advance tickets can be bought on the Hippodrome’s website.

“Before Night Falls” will show Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 p.m.; “Chico and Rita” will show Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.; “Playing Lacuona” will show only on Saturday at 1 p.m. A full schedule of the Cuban festival’s events are available on its website,

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