“Cabaret Cuba” (EXCLUSIVE) Interview with Madeleine Duba

2023 September 3

“Cabaret Cuba” (EXCLUSIVE) Interview with Madeleine Duba

-Who is Madeleine Duba?

I am a Czech-Swiss award-winning filmmaker based in London.

After an exchange year in illustration at the University of Applied Arts Prague, I graduated in ‘Visuelle Kommunikation’ (BA) at the HSLU Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, followed with a MASTER in Communication Art & Design at the Royal College of Art (London, UK).
About my work: I am passionate about raising public awareness of human stories and undertaking critical reflection on social development. My films aim to view the world through different lenses. Through my creative approach to documentary filmmaking I let people share their soul with the world. Through film I aim to explore my very personal themes like identity, migration, social and ecological sustainability. I create a platform for gaining an insight of different communities.

In 1997 my short documentary idea ‘Emil Manser’ (Das Luzerner Stadtoriginal) found realisation in a collaboration, followed by a re-edited new version in 2004, (in memory of Emil’s death). Manser was a Swiss street artist and self-proclaimed mayor of Lucerne. Because of his humorous, socio-critical sayings, which he carried on cardboard signs around his neck and because of his constant presence in public space. In the 1990s, he was seen in Lucerne as a city original.

In 1998 ‘Czech It Out’ (14min) was screened at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

‘Czech it Out’ is a documentary about migration and the necessity to leave a country and to settle in a new country. Every migrant has a story of hope, courage, despair, of exile and belonging.

From 2001 until 2011 my work did focus on animation mixed with live action, dealing with social critical content of ‘punky’ female subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. My vision was to create highly intricate work inspired by various phases or moments of life. I have directed several short animated films, music videos, title sequences, including the award winning ‘Water?’, Gold at the ‘Prix Leonardo’ in Italy, ‘Lattice Award’ at the RCA and shortlisted for the BAFTA, ‘Hangover’ was screened at the L.A. Films Festival and Animadrid. 

My work was shown at numerous film festivals all around the world, including CBS Jumbotron Time Square New York USA, 51st Melbourne Film Festival, BFI Southbank London, New York Film Festival, USA, Florida Film Festival, USA, Green Vision Film Festival St. Petersburg, Russia, Zaragoza World Expo, Spain, CO2penhagen Festival….. etc…. etc. In 2008 the Robbie Williams Music Promo, The 80ies ‘Skiving‘ was in the running for the British Animation Awards and screened at 48 cinemas around the United Kingdom as well as at the British Filmweek in Singapore. With my short ‘Love Notes‘, I won the Maple Leaf Award at the Canada International Film Festival in 2009.

In 2011, becoming a mother of two daughters, I began to focus on editing and moved my focus back into documentary filmmaking.

My first feature length documentary ‘Cabaret Cuba’ (65min) is built on collected film footage on numerous visits in Cuba over the last 10 years. I have collaborated with film production companies in London, Prague, Madrid, New York and Havana (Cuba).

-What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

In the 1970’s and 1980’s during my childhood years in Switzerland, I was inspired by my father Cenek Duba, an award winning Czech Film Director who fled the country together with my mother due to the Russian occupation in 1968.

I loved to hear my fathers thoughts when we were watching movies together; from ‘Apocalypse Now’ by Francis Copola, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ to Czech filmmakers who gained worldwide fame like Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel. We would talk about the storyline, the visual style and what it would involve to make the movie happen.

I was growing up hearing my father’s typewriter clicking while writing his film scripts, and the smell of coffee would spread around the flat. I would draw little comic stories. Drawing and painting was, and is still my passion today. When I was 9 years old, my first assisting job was to click the stop frame camera in my father’s short animation clips, during his industrial documentary productions in Switzerland. These childhood memories stay forever in my mind.

Later I became a fanatic of Wim Wenders movies. Don’t get me wrong, I also liked the blockbusters and the high end glossy film productions. However, films made by Luis Buñuel, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Winterbottom, Ken Loach or Woody Allen fascinated me with its very rich desolate imagery and observational cinema form. With themes of memory, loss, time, nostalgia, and restless movement, it embodied a new sensibility in my form of visual thinking.

-Do you think the cinema can bring a change in the society?

Definitely! Cinema can be very powerful. Throughout history, many leaders have used the power of film to help achieve their goals. During WWII, for example, both Hitler and Stalin used movies as propaganda and did so very successfully. Cinema can easily change people’s opinions and their outlooks on life.

During the Russian occupation my father’s scripts were amended by his film union, according to the national systems communistic beliefs. If my father would refuse the script changes, his films would not be produced due to suspicion of hidden contra political messages. Eventually, filled with frustration, due to this unfortunate situation made him leave his beloved country Czech Republic. His movies would still be shown in cinemas and TV, but his name was cut out, so the audience would slowly forget his existence.

Movies change society by influencing the beliefs, opinions, and behaviors of the people who see them. Nature documentaries will bring us closer to the reality of the state of our planet. Documentaries of refugees fleeing their countries would give us a reality check of what it really means to be in such a terrible situation. Through movies (moving image and sound) we are able to open up, relate and experience a subject through our emotions.

Individually, people are bound to get affected by movies given that the main goal the cinematic art form has, is exactly to impact and send a message. There are numerous ways in which movies affect society and the modern world we live in: some of them negative, some of them positive. Overall, the impact and influence that cinema has on our society is immense.

-What would you change in the world?

I wish for world peace within and among all people and nations on Planet Earth by respecting each other while maintaining different cultures, religions, philosophies, and organizations. 

In the words of Dalai Lama: 

‘Universal humanitarianism is essential to solve global problems; 

Compassion is the pillar of world peace; 

All world religions are already for world peace in this way, as are all humanitarians of whatever ideology; 

Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs’. 

These are human values that unite us all as a single family on this planet. 

I wish for a more friendly, more caring, and more understanding Human family on this planet.

-Where do you see the film industry going in the next 100 years?

AI is already earning comparisons to the agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and internet revolution. It is moving fast and gathering speed. The most profound effects have probably not yet been imagined.

Yes, AI will take over many industries and professions. However, what would movies be if they didn’t come from us, our emotions, what we believe in, what we feel, what we aim to communicate and change for the better?

‘From idea to output’.

At the end it is the audience ‘Us’ who decide if we are going to watch a movie or not.

However, the years will show what the future will bring.