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Screening Cuba

Film Criticism as Political Performance during the Cold War

Hector Amaya

Publication Year: 2010

Hector Amaya advances into new territory in Latin American and U.S. cinema studies in this innovative analysis of the differing critical receptions of Cuban film in Cuba and the United States during the Cold War. Synthesizing film reviews, magazine articles, and other primary documents, Screening Cuba compares Cuban and U.S. reactions to four Cuban films: Memories of Underdevelopment, Lucia, One Way or Another, and Portrait of Teresa._x000B__x000B_In examining cultural production through the lens of the Cold War, Amaya reveals how contrasting interpretations by Cuban and U.S. critics are the result of the political cultures in which they operated. While Cuban critics viewed the films as powerful symbols of the social promises of the Cuban revolution, liberal and leftist American critics found meaning in the films as representations of anti-establishment progressive values and Cold War discourses. By contrasting the hermeneutics of Cuban and U.S. culture, criticism, and citizenship, Amaya argues that critical receptions of political films constitute a kind of civic public behavior.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

Throughout my life I have claimed several political identities. The first one was leftism or socialism or communism. At the time, I was not quite clear on the difference. Growing up in Mexico, I needed to break with my traditional upbringing and developed...

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pp. xi-xxiii

The venue for the first Festival of Cuban Film in the United States was the Olympia Theatre in New York City where, from March 24 to April 2, 1972, seven feature films and fifteen documentaries, all of which had received international prizes and acclaim...

PART I: Staging Film Criticism: The Cuban and American Historical and Political Backgrounds

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1. Cuban Culture, Institutions, Policies, and Citizens

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pp. 3-30

In 1955, Italian neorealism entered full force in the political culture of Cuba. In that year, the young filmmaker Julio García Espinosa directed El Megano, a documentary that denounced the living conditions of charcoal burners in the Zapata Swamps region...

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2. The Cuban Revolutionary Hermeneutics: Criticism and Citizenship

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pp. 31-60

U.S. film dominated Cuban screens before 1959. This changed with the advent of the revolution. With Cuba moving away from capitalism and from American cultural products, Cuban movie theaters, to great box-office success, began substituting Hollywood...

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3. The U.S. Field of Culture

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pp. 61-75

A huge historic fluke frames the reception of Cuban film in the United States, a fluke that gives significance to this chapter and this book. The Cuban Revolution coincided with the sixties in America, and just as the revolution shaped the culture of criticism in Cuba...

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4. U.S. Criticism, Dissent, and Hermeneutics

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pp. 76-104

The rise of foreign film distribution and art house exhibition during the 1950s onward helped constitute the field of professional film criticism in America. By the 1970s and 1980s, the decades in which the Cuban films were reviewed, criticism had a defined place in the field of...

PART II: Performing Film Criticism

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5. Memories of Underdevelopment

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pp. 107-124

Memorias del Subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment, 1968), directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, develops in Havana in 1961, at a time when the nation was undergoing profound changes and just before the Missile Crisis. Sergio, an educated, middle-...

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6. Lucia

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pp. 125-143

Lucia (Lucía, 1968, d. Humberto Solás) is composed of three stories of three women named Lucia. “Lucia 1895” narrates the story of a wealthy, single, white, sexually conservative Cuban woman in 1895, at a time when Cubans were engaged in a war for independence...

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7. One Way or Another

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pp. 144-157

De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another, 1977), directed by Sara Gómez, extensively mixes a fictional narrative with documentary footage and the lives of real Cubans. The narrative, which develops at the beginning of the revolution, tells the story of Mario and...

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8. Portrait of Teresa

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pp. 158-178

Retrato de Teresa (Portrait of Teresa, 1979), directed by Pastor Vega, narrates the story of Teresa, a textile worker, wife, and mother of three, whose political and work commitments produce a rift between her and her husband, Ramón. He becomes increasingly resentful...

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Conclusion: Film Criticism in Cuba and the United States

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pp. 179-196

The goal of this study has been to understand the politicized critical reception of Memories of Underdevelopment, Lucia, One Way or Another, and Portrait of Teresa in two national/cultural contexts (Cuba and the United States) and relate this reception to the performance...


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pp. 197-200


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pp. 201-214


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pp. 215-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090028
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035593

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010