Every November, Cuban screenwriter, director and novelist Hugo Rivalta leaves behind the hot tropical climate of his native Havana to embrace a normally rain-soaked, dark and chilly Glasgow. 

Hugo is co-director of the Havana Glasgow Film Festival, which, for the past nine years, has showcased and celebrated the best of Cuban cinema and culture while highlighting the similarities that exist between Havana and Glasgow - cities that have been twinned since 2002.

As he nears a decade of Novembers spent in Scotland’s largest city, he admits he now feels as much at home among Glasgow’s blonde and red sandstone tenements as he does among the crumbling colonial buildings of Old Havana with their signature washed-out pastel façades. 

“The more time I spend in Glasgow the more I realize the many similarities between here and Cuba. I repeat it in almost every conversation or interview I have while I am here,” he told The Herald. 

“Above all, it’s the character of the people who call Glasgow home. People who are happy, who will talk to you on the street or interrupt you to ask you about your city without any hang-ups.

READ MORE: Documentary film on Loch Ness Monster-hunting boom in 1970s hits UK cinemas

It is very similar to Cuba. The laughter of the Scottish people and the amusement of Scottish people. We have a lot of similarities. I feel very comfortable here in Glasgow...despite the cold.”​

This year’s festival is dedicated to animation and sees Hugo present his first animation feature film as writer, La Super. The film follows the progress of Jevalentina, an indigenous woman warrior whose spirit comes back to inspire Yudeisi, a young chemistry teacher, to become a superhero and make a stand against abusive men in a city.

Hugo said: “The festival is about Cuban cinema, but more than just cinema it is about Cuban culture. We have a really great selection of films this year. There are a number of debut films from new Cuban filmmakers and premieres of documentaries as well. We also have La Super, an animated film that I scripted. It is an important dish on the festival menu, one which has as its main course animation. 

“We also have renowned Cuban animator Ivette Ávila Martín attending the festival to showcase her work. Myself, Ivette and festival co-director Eirene Houston have spent the past few weeks visiting schools across Glasgow to give workshops for children on animation. It's been wonderful.”

As well as Ivette Ávila Martín, the festival will also be attended by Laura de la Uz -  twice winner of the Coral Award for Best Actress at The Havana Film Festival - who returns to Glasgow to discuss her life and work and present her latest film, El Mundo de Nelsito (The World of Nelsito). 

The Herald: Hugo RivaltaHugo Rivalta (Image: Havana Glasgow Film Festival)

Other highlights include a Feminist Filmmaking event and a talk by photographer Hector Garrido - Indigenous Cuba: Portraits and DNA - which investigates to what degree indigenous people remain on the island since the arrival of the Europeans.

As this year’s festival kicks off, Hugo is once more relishing the opportunity to showcase the very best Cuban cinema has to offer over 4,000 miles from home.

“It is really special. We live in a time where everything is told through image. So it is very important to show the Cuban visual perspective and sound via films that are being made in Cuba”, he said.

“The Havana Glasgow Film Festival is the only major festival in the United Kingdom that showcases Cuban cinema. Over the past nine years we have brought many Cuban actors, actresses and directors to Glasgow and that is a real source of pride for me. 

“Here in Glasgow we have created a place of friendship. The festival has become a meeting place for many who have come to Glasgow, from established figures of Cuban cinema to young filmmakers. Bringing the very best of Cuban cinema to Glasgow shows the regard we have for the city.

"Everyone who has visited from Cuba has been delighted with both the festival and Glasgow. For me it is very important not only to write films but also to promote the talent of Cuban filmmakers and bring all these people to Glasgow.”

The Havana Glasgow Film Festival is on now at venues such as the GFT and CCA in Glasgow until November 19.