Alea, Tomás Gutiérrez


Tomás Gutiérrez Alea was an outstanding artist of the New Cuban cinema whose work was closely connected with the Cuban revolution. He was born in Havana on December 11, 1928, to a bourgeois family. Though he studied law at the University of Havana, he had a passion for film and shot amateur shorts on 8mm. After graduating, he went on to study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome from 1951-53, where he met the filmmaker Julio García Espinosa.


Alea and Espinosa returned to Cuba inspired by Italian Neo-realism. Together they made the short documentary El Mégano, which was banned by the Batista regime. In 1956, Alea began working for the news program Cine Revista and joined the progressive cultural organization “Nuestro Tiempo,” whose newspaper he edited. Together with Espinosa, he founded the film department of the Rebel Army in 1959, and with Alfredo Guevara and others the Cuban Film Institute ICAIC. Alea co-wrote and directed the first feature film produced after the revolution, Historias de la Revolución, with input from Che Guevara.


The comedy genre was always an important part of his work. His satire La muerte de un burócrata was an homage to all his favorite filmmakers, including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and Buñuel. It became an instant Cuban cinema classic and established his name abroad.


Alea’s reputation strengthened in 1968 with Memorias del subdesarrollo. The New York Times called it “a superb and extraordinary Cuban film” and ranked it in The Ten Best Films of 1973. He was also awarded for it by the American National Society of Film Critics in 1974.


For his last comedy Fresa y Chocolate, the first Cuban film with an openly gay main character, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Because he became ill during the filming, he was assisted by his colleague, Juan Carlos Tabío, with whom he also co-directed Guantanamera, his last film. Alea died on April 16, 1996 in Havana.

Festivals & Awards:

1974 American National Society of Film Critics Award for Memorias del subdesarrollo
1994 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film for Fresa y Chocolate


1995 Guantanamera
1994 Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate)
1991 Contigo en la distancia
1989 Cartas del parquet (Letters from the Park)
1983 Hasta cierto punto (Up to a Certain Point)
1979 Los sobrevivientes (The Survivors)
1977 De cierta manera (One Way or Another, doc.)
1976 La última cena (The Last Supper)
1976 El arte del tabaco (The Art of Tobacco)
1972 Una pelea cubana contra los demonios (A Cuban Fight Against Demons)
1968 Memorias del subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopement)
1966 La muerte de un burócrata (Death of a Bureaucrat)
1964 Cumbite
1962 Las doce sillas (The Twelve Chairs)
1960 Historias de la revolución (Stories of the Revolution)
1959 Esta tierra nuestra (trans. This Our Earth, doc.)
1955 El Mégano

Shibboleth login