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The Eyes of the Rainbow/Ojos del arco iris
Assata Shakur and Oya

An English language documentary 
by the independent video group Imágenes del Caribe
Gloria Rolando, Director

Video, color, 47 min, 1997
Director of Photography: Raul Rodriguez, Jose M. Riera
Script and Director: Gloria Rolando
Assistant Director: Tony Romero
narrated by Nehanda Abiodun

"Eyes of the Rainbow" deals with the life of Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who escaped from prison and was given political asylum in Cuba, where she has lived for close to 15 years. In it we visit with Assata in Havana and she tells us about her history and her life in Cuba. This film is also about Assata's AfroCuban context, including the Yoruba Orisha Oya, goddess of the ancestors, of war, of the cemetery and of the rainbow.

Gloria Rolando on "Eyes of the Rainbow":

"In the struggle of the African American people, many women's voices in the past and the present have always called for social justice, women who throughout the years have shown integrity and firmness in their principles. For this reason, "The Eyes of the Rainbow" is dedicated to all women who struggle for a better world.

One of those voices that already forms a part of the history of the African American people is that of Assata Shakur. In the documentary "The Eyes of the Rainbow," she recounts aspects of her path as relentless warrior. We are able to create a meeting with Assata Shakur through the symbols of AfroCuban culture, which offer us beautiful songs evoking the ancestors.

Representations of the Yoruba warrior orishas such as Oya and Ochosi support the discourse of this story, which also has its moments of poetry and tenderness as in the dance of Oshun, through which is illustrated Assata's decision to become mother while still in prison.

The blues interpreted by Junius Williams and his "Magic Harp," the songs of Sweet Honey in the Rocks, and the Cuban group "Vocal Baobab" give a special stamp to this valiant testimony which defines the spirit of struggle in the African American woman."

Assistant Director: Antonio Romero
Special performances:

  • Grupo Vocal Baobab

  • Sweet Honey in the Rock

  • Danza Nacional de Cuba

  • Junius Williams and the Magic Harp

This film is not in commercial circulation. A certain Jacuma Kambui was the first to release a poor copy on the web, violating its copyright. His motivations are suspect.

Images of the Caribbean

"Images of the Caribbean is an independent Cuban film making group, with many of the people who worked with me on "Oggun" and "My Footsteps in Baragua." We gratefully accept all suggestions and support for the development of future documentary projects." -- Gloria Rolando

Comment on Eyes of the Rainbow-

"Thank you, thank you." Heard repeatedly as Gloria made presentations after showing the film.

Review of Eyes of the Rainbow by Linda Lopez McAlister

"The Eyes of the Rainbow"
A Film Review by Linda Lopez McAlister
on "The Women's Show" WMNF-FM 88.5, Tampa, FL
August 30, 1997

Not being able to be two places at the same time, last night I had
to forego seeing a film at a regular theater in order not to miss the oppo-
rtunity to see the three films that Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando
brought to USF under WMNF sponsorship. So forgive me for speaking this
morning about a film you probably won't be able to see right away (though
with any luck it will be included in some upcoming film festivals). Three
ee of Rolando's films were shown last night including short 1986 documme-
ntary that she worked on but didn't write or direct about Haitians living
in Cuba "Haiti in Memoria," which then led to her making a longer docu-
mentary, "My Footsteps in Baragua," a study of one of the still existing
colonies of English-speaking West Indians who immigrated to Cuba in the
arly years of this century. Many of these people originally left their
home islands of Barbados, Jamaica, Greneda, Monserrat and others, to work
k on the Panama Canal. When that was completed, instead of returning home
they moved on to Cuba in search of work, where they and their descendants
remain today and where they keep alive their British and West Indian
traditions and language.

But the film I want to focus on this morning is Rolando's most recent
completed film called "The Eyes of the Rainbow" which is a documentary
about Assata Shakur, formerly Black Panther Party member JoAnne Chesimard
who has been living in political exile in Cuba since her 1970s escape
from prison where she had been incarcerated after being convicted on flimsy
evidence of having been an accomplice to murder in connection with a
hold up in which a police officer was killed, a crime she denies being
part of. (I believe that the women who arranged for her escape are still in
Federal prison in the Florida panhandle). I had a personal interest
in seeing this film because I met Assata Shakur when I was in Cuba in
1991 and had the opportunity not only to hear her give a public lecture
but also to have lunch with her one day and socialize with her at a party
on another occasion. So I already knew what an impressive, intelligent,
vital, and passionate human being she is. Naturally, I was curious to
see how she's doing these days, at age 50, and to have the opportunity
again to hear her speak from the heart about her life, her beliefs, and
who she is.

Rolando's film is not and does not claim to be a chronological autobi-
ographical study, though you get the general idea of what Assata's been through
To fill in the details you need to read her autobiography called,
simply, ASSATA (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987). Rolando uses an
extended interview format, set in various locations, including the corridors
of a centuries old fortress, Havana harbor, and several locations in Old
Havana. She also was able to get some footage of an interview of Assata
filmed by an African American filmmaker while she was still in prison
New Jersey and known in the media as JoAnne Chesimard. The interplay
play of this footage of the young revolutionary wearing an Afro and expound-
ing on the need for revolution in this country and the footage of Assata
of today, older, wiser, and yet every bit as much committed to the struggle
uggle to improve the world now as she was then, is very effective.

Rolando has shot this documentary on video, which has some drawbacks,
to be sure, but which also puts a wide range of interesting effects at her
disposal, that she uses lavishly, but not so intrusively as to be a distrac-
tion. She also makes Afro-Cuban and Afro-American music and dance an
integral part of the telling of her story, in a manner somewhat reminiscent
of the way Pratiba Parmar uses dance sequences (in "Kusch" and "Warrior
Marks" ) to convey aspects of the story that wouldn't work if portrayed
in a straightforward realistic manner. A case in point is her use of
dance to extend a sequence in which Assate tells about how she and a man
an (unidentified in the film, but in reality a man named Kamau who was her
co-defendant in one of her several trials) became sexually attracted to
one another and debated whether or not to have a sexual relationship that
could result in bring a child into this horrible world. (They had the
opportunity because the judge had banned them from the courtroom and locked
them into an adjoining room into which the proceedings of the trials were
ere broadcast). Afro-Cuban dancers continue the story with a dance sequ-
ence that makes it clear that the answer they came to was to become lov ers
and have a child, and the sequence is finished off with a montage of
photographs of their daughter from babyhood to high school graduation.
(When I met Assata, her daughter, who inherited her mother's striking
beauty, was working as a fashion model for the Wilhemina agency). The dance
elements also serve to underline something that Assata only realized when
she got to Cuba, namely, how strong an African influence there is there.
This influence allowed her to come to know that part of her heritage
and the dances are expressive of and dedicated to various African deities.

Since Assata can't leave Cuba, the best way to come to know her as
a person (short of travelling to Havana) is to see this film and read her
book. While the film is not yet available for distribution, I'm going to
make it my business to see to it that the USF Women's Studies Department
obtains a copy as soon as we can. The film is dedicated to "Women every-
where who continue the struggle" -- for equality, for justice, for the a
alleviation of pain. Assata lives in the pain of separation from those she
loves. She was unable, for example, to be with her mother when she d ied
or attend her funeral. But sees it as her role to use every fiber of
her being to continue to fight for those things she learned from her mother,
her grandmother, and her foremothers, so she continues the struggle.

For the WMNF Women's Show, this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women and Film.

<Linda Lopez McAlister is professor of women's studies at the University
of South Florida, Tampa.>


Links/Enlaces top

Gloria Rolando

Tony Romero

Assata Shakur


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