Directed By: Octavio Cortázar
Starring: Charlie Chaplin
Trivia: The entire film was shot on April 12, 1967 in the village of Los Munos, in the Baracoa municipality of Cuba
Produced by the Cuban Film Institute, For the First Time is a wonderful little documentary that’s sure to delight cinephiles the world over.
For the First Time was shot in its entirety on April 12, 1967, when a “cine-mobile” truck carrying a generator and movie projector rolled into the small village of Los Munos. A remote village nestled deep in the mountains near Gunatanamo, Los Munos is well secluded (the driver comments at the beginning of this documentary that he’s had trouble in the past just getting his truck in there), and its residents rarely venture far from home. As a result, most of them have never seen a motion picture before. After gathering what appears to be the whole town together, the two men in the cine-mobile proceed to show the crowd excerpts from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. It was a huge success.
Designed to promote Cuba’s home-grown film industry, For the First Time kicks things off with a few interviews: first with the two men who spend 28 days a month living in the Cine-Mobile, driving it from town to town;, and then with the villagers themselves, many of whom admit they’ve never seen a movie before. Where this film truly excels, though, is in its second half, when we catch a glimpse of the faces of those viewing the film, and reacting to the images they’re seeing on the screen. The entire audience, young and old, howled with laughter as they watched the scene in Modern Times where Chaplin tests the “automatic feeder”, a contraption built to keep workers on the job during their lunch hour.
Along with creating a new bunch of film fans (one villager, after viewing Modern Times, says “A movie is a beautiful and important thing”), the Cine-Mobile vehicle and For the First Time also prove just how magical moving images can be, and to see these people sitting back and enjoying something produced 30 years earlier definitely brought a smile to my face.