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Nicaraguan Cinema - Culture And Arts - Nicaragua

Whatever Nicaragua had in terms of an significant film industry, or even film culture, perished during the Sandinista revolution (from 1979 to 1990). Before the  revolution, there had been a small, publicly funded production outfit, Producine, dedicated entirely to promulgating propaganda for the corrupt and draconian Somoza dynasty in the form of tendentious news films, usually shown before an imported commercial feature film. Otherwise, Nicaragua's extreme poverty made filmmaking nearly impossible. Nicaraguans usually had to be content with imported commercial fare from Hollywood, Mexico and Argentina.

After the Sandinistas overthrew Anastazio Somoza, they reinvented a national cinema. The Sandanista government had both funding and technical support from Cuba. Modeling the Soviet approach to pictures as populist pedagogy, the new government established the Instituto Nacional de Cine Nicaraguanse, or INCINE. The Instituto Nacional promulgating propaganda for the Sandanista cause in the form of tendentious news films, called "noticieros." A typical noticiero would highlight a new public works project, the building of a school, or the bravery of female Sandinista soldiers. Strangely enough, such films were shown in movie houses, rather than on television, which had long since become the predominant mass medium for social evolution. The theater presentation of the noticieros was a result of a rivalry between the state-run television network and INCINE.

After two years, INCINE decided to move beyond the non-fiction format, which though inexpensive, was limited in its impact, and thus ventured into full-length fictional feature films. As was the standard for all cinema made under Marxist auspices at the time, feature films made by INCINE all conveyed the Sandanista party line.

However inhibiting this might have been for genuine artistry, INCINE scored a surprise success with their very first film, "Alsino y el Condor" (1982). INCINE employed Miguel Littin, who had been exiled from Chile, and adapted a traditional folk story of a boy longing to fly like a condor, only in the film his daydreams were set against the backdrop of the Sandinista-Somoza war. The movie featured American actor Dean Stockwell as a sinister U.S. "adviser." The film was praised for muting its political "message" through obliquely poetic poignancy, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Nothing that INCINE would later do matched the success of "Alsino y el Condor," either in prestige or popularity. Its last film, 1988's "The Specter of War," about an aspiring dancer who overcomes his reluctance to sacrifice his career for the sake of military service, broke INCINE's budget. Two years later, the anti-Sandinista candidate, Violetta Chamorro, won the presidency and INCINE became merely another chapter in Nicaragua's cinematic history.

Since the demise of INCINE, filmmaking in Nicaragua has been sporadic, consisting mainly of short socially-conscious documentaries responding to the aftermath of decades of war, poverty, and instability. In post-civil war Nicaragua, the Asociaci├│n Nicarag├╝ense de Cinematograf├şa (ANCI) has also emerged to unify the country's new generation of filmmakers.


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