By his own admission, Andrew Lang had no special interest in cinema or making movies until a screening of Patricio Guzmán’s The Battle of Chile during class at his boarding school. The viewing of this film sparked two related interests of non-fiction cinema and South America. A visit to Chile during the 30th Anniversary of Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état allowed Lang to film reportage of protests by mothers of murdered political prisoners during the dictatorship. This experience further bolstered a desire for making films, specifically documentary films.
He returned to England to work on his thesis on the works of Guzmán which were still banned in Chile at the time of his visit. Inspired by his research into Latin American cinema as well as an UK Times article describing Cuba’s intensive boxing training program, Lang revisited South America with a view to making a film on Havana’s famed boxing Academy. To this end, Lang participated in a three work course at Cuba’s National Film School. The local crew he assembled for his first feature was derived from his time at the School. This included respected sound recordist Sergio Torres and Domingo Triano; a veteran cameraman whose credits include Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment.
At the age of 28, Andrew Lang completed Sons of Cuba over a three-year production. The film received high praise for its even-handed depiction of contemporary Cuba. It also shows the uncertainty that followed in the wake of Castro’s retirement from public office; forming an indelible time capsule of 21st Century Cuban society. Although inspired by Latin American cinema, Lang’s use of the observational camera to show his subjects in their daily life deviated from the old-fashioned newsreel approach of his Cuban crew. His film approached his subjects as individuals and collaborators, as displayed in the film’s interviews with the children, their family and the coach. This accounts for the special quality of Sons of Cuba. Despite being entirely in Spanish, the film remains an outsider’s view of Cuba, attentive to the universal nature of life in a country that has often suffered on account of large-scale misperception and ignorance.
Andrew Lang is currently in pre-production on his next documentary, which is set in Africa.