Past Film/Video | Classics

Death of a Bureaucrat | Memories of Underdevelopment

(La muerte de un burócrata, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1966)
(Memorias del subdesarrollo, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968)

Double Feature | New Restoration

A man embraces a woman from behind. She has dark hair; his face is buried in her neck. They are standing in a living room.

Take in two of Gutiérrez Alea’s best in this double feature: a humorous takedown of unending bureaucracy and a masterful portrait of a disaffected intellectual. 

In the biting satire Death of a Bureaucrat, a worker—a true proletarian—has died and is honored by friends and family at the cemetery, buried with his party card in hand. When his family applies for his worker’s pension, however, they learn that they need his card to collect the benefits—and to dig up the body to get the card. Made with funds from Castro’s postrevolution Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos, the film is nonetheless a hilarious critique of bureaucracy’s endless red tape. In Spanish with English subtitles. (85 mins., 4K DCP) 

Sergio is a wealthy writer who decides to remain in Cuba after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, even as his wife and family flee to Miami. Scornful of both his bourgeois family and the country’s devoted Marxists, he fills his free time by chasing women. His outlook begins to change, however, when confronted with the new reality of living in a communist bureaucracy. Arguably the most revered film in the history of Cuban cinema, Memories of Underdevelopment is a stylistic tour de force. In Spanish with English subtitles. (97 mins., 4K DCP)

See the entire Tomás Gutiérrez Alea lineup.

Memories of Underdevelopment, courtesy of Janus Films.

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More about the filmmaker

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea chevron-down chevron-up

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1928–1996) wrote and directed more than 20 features, documentaries, and short films throughout his life. Steeped in film history during his studies at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Gutiérrez Alea pays homage in his films to the greats who inspired him, including Charlie Chaplin and Luis Buñuel. Following the Cuban revolution in 1959, and with the support of the Castro regime, he and a group of other young filmmakers founded the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). The collective advocated for film as an art form and as the best method of disseminating revolutionary ideals to the masses. Ever dedicated to the revolution, his films nonetheless deftly critique the social, economic, and political realities of life in Cuba. 

Death of a Bureaucrat restored by the Academy Film Archive and the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos.

Memories of Underdevelopment restored through the Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project by the Cineteca di Bologna in association with the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos.

Copromotional support provided by Ohio State's Center for Latin American Studies.

National Endowment for the Arts 
Ohio Humanities

Rohauer Collection Foundation

Ohio Department of Development
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Wexner Family 
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Ohio Arts Council, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts 
Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme 
The Columbus Foundation 
Axium Packaging
Nationwide Foundation 
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease

Mike and Paige Crane 
Nancy Kramer 
Ohio State Energy Partners 
Ohio History Fund/Ohio History Connection 
Larry and Donna James 
David Crane and Elizabeth Dang 
Bruce and Joy Soll 
Rebecca Perry Damsen and Ben Towle 
Jones Day 
Alex and Renée Shumate


Past Film/Video

Death of a Bureaucrat | Memories of Underdevelopment