Cuba will allow independent filmmakers to legally produce their own movies as of August 23 this year.
Cuba's Communist government on Thursday issued a decree legalising the country's independent movie industry in a move that should facilitate production, although critics said it fails to resolve issues of censorship and distribution.
Until now, Cuba's independent filmmakers have had to scramble to get their projects made due to the lack of legal recognition. And while their works have sometimes won renown in film festivals abroad, they have lacked distribution at home.
The government said on Thursday, however, that as of Aug. 23, a new law will "approve the figure of the audiovisual and cinematographic creator as an independent artist" and create a national film fund.
While Cuba's movie industry welcomed the long-awaited news, many cautioned it remains to be seen how it will be implemented.
In a country that has been dominated by the state since the leftist revolution of 1959, it was long up to the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) to produce and finance movies.
But filmmakers began to make movies independently from the 1980s thanks to new technology like video cameras.
A majority of Cuba's filmmakers now work outside of state institutions, saying it gives them more creative freedom and that they have been tolerated to some extent by the authorities. Their legal limbo, however, has created trouble in obtaining permits to film in public spaces or to import equipment.
It has also been difficult to gain funding since many foreign film funds will award money only to projects by a legally recognised production company with a corporate bank account.
The new legislation will also create three new private-sector licenses for those working on independent movie projects: operator of movie equipment, from lighting to drones; casting director; and production assistant.
Critics said it was problematic that the Ideological Department of the Communist Party would continue to vet the films shown in Cuba.
The Cuban government could not immediately be reached for comment. Cuban officials in the cultural industry have in the past denied accusations of censorship.