'Filiberto' Production House Sues Puerto Rico Cinema Corp.

The nonprofit production company, Proyecto Chiringa, is suing the Corporacion de Cine de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Film Commission) and the Puerto Rican government for reneging on the approved funding for the documentary Filiberto, produced by NALIP member Freddie Marrero and directed by Leandro Fabrizi Rios. This case is important to the NALIP community, and to other documentary filmmakers, for at stake is a filmmaker's ability to create work about controversial political figures without censorship by one of its funding entity. 

The article below is by Rafael R. Diaz Torres for the Puerto Rico Daily Sun

Film production company Casa Chiringa sued the Puerto Rico Cinema Corp. (PRCC) in San Juan District Court for alleged breach of contract, damages, and violation of civil rights in the production process of the documentary "Filiberto," about the personal and clandestine political life, and subsequent murder of pro-independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Rio.

In a press conference the Puerto Rico Bar Association in Santurce, film producer Freddie Marrero Alonso said the PRCC failed to comply with its contractual agreement, signed October 2008, in which the public corporation agreed to lend Casa Chiringa $93,363 to help finance the production.

According to Marrero, the PRCC decided to halt the financing due to the supposed "partisan propaganda" of the documentary.

Marrero said the PRCC contacted the film producers on Nov. 14, 2011 and argued that continuing to provide financing for the project would constitute a violation of sections 2.01 and 7.04 of Law 121, which prohibits the use of the cinematographic fund to finance projects for particular purposes or with purposes geared towards partisan or sectarian propaganda.

The film's producer denies his documentary has any partisan connotation.

"During Filiberto Ojeda's funeral (in 2005), we noticed how people of different political ideologies came out to salute him, perhaps out of curiosity or maybe to know who this man was. That is when we noticed there was good content for the making of a documentary," Marrero said.

The filmmaker's comments were echoed by the documentary's director, Leandro Fabrizi Rios, who argued that "Filiberto" is a historical document based on one premise: "Why a country's history affects an individual in such a particular way?"

Casa Chiringa employees said Puerto Rico would gain a negative reputation as a result of the controversy. They argued that international film production houses would now be more hesitant to provide economic support to cinematographic projects from the island.

Parafilms, the Venezuelan co-production company of the project, said in a press release that "incompliance by the PRCC not only threatens a project in which professionals from two countries (Puerto Rico and Venezuela) have invested more than two years of work, but would also have an impact on the image of said corporation before the multinational organization that supports the project, which in this case is Ibermedia."

Ibermedia agreed to support the project because of its historical value and the positive reputation it gained internationally after the PRCC agreed to provide financing.

"Filiberto" includes the testimony of people from different backgrounds and political views, including pro-independence activists, former FBI agents, New Progressive Party Sen. Thomas Rivera Schatz, Catholic Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, and even local comedian Shorty Castro, who shared the musical stage with Ojeda Rios during his time as a trumpet player with the "Sonora Poncena" salsa band.