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Films on racism in Cuba
Amilcar Ortiz

Trailer for Contra las Cuerdas
Contra las Cuerdas - On the Ropes - Racial politics in Cuba, 18 min

Contra las Cuerdas (On the Ropes) tells the story of a racial debate initiated in Cuba in 1959 with the triumph of the revolution; this debate soon disappeared in 1962 from the national public sphere.

What prevented this debate and discussion of the issue from taking place? What fate has befallen the racial theme on the island in the last 55 years? What happens today? These are the questions through which passes the story of a debate still unknown to the vast majority of Cuban people.

This film gives extensive interviews to some of the pioneers of the study of racism and the politics of racism in Cuba.

The following were interviewed for this film:

Due to resource constraints, the project was cut short and only a few people were interviewed for this film -- they turned out to be all men. This was not the choice of the director, who has been interviewing broadly for his second film on the same theme.

De eso no se habla - We don't talk about this

De eso no se habla - We don't talk about this - Trailer

For decades contemporary Cuban society has avoided facing one of the oldest and most sensitive issues - racial discrimination.  From 1962, less than three years after the beginning of the Cuban revolution, racial problems on the island were deemed officially resolved. For the following almost forty years, a period of silence concerning racism masked the nationwide reality. During the early 1960 ́s Cuba was wholly focused on fighting anti-revolutionary forces and on maintaining national unity. The issue of racism was stigmatized and removed from public and academic debate, thus becoming taboo. This situation did nothing but advance what it intended to silence. Today, more than a decade after breaking that silence, diverse groups and individuals - black, white, mestizo, Cuban and foreign - are now, even more strongly, re-opening the debate. From within their respective disciplines and perspectives, the racial debate on the island is firmly back on the agenda although it remains insufficiently public or institutional.

These individuals are the protagonists of this story, which addresses, in depth, the racial problem in Cuba: a topic that has been barely touched upon in documentary production on the island. They openly name and condemn racism while suggesting constructive ways forward. They expose the challenges in the present fight against racial discrimination and place this debate within the context of a radical revolution; where, at its beginning, black people found a significant space - of historical recognition and social legitimization - both nationally and internationally.

De eso no se habla endeavors to show the virtually unknown work of these activists, community leaders, teachers, On the Ropesprofessionals, writers and artists in the fight to combat discrimination and racism. These groups and individuals are creating their own spaces, with their own alternative initiatives, contrary to persisting institutional resistance.

From this eclectic perspective, this documentary seeks to help us understand the magnitude and complexities of the racial problem in contemporary Cuban society. In a period of clear national transition, which will certainly determine the future of the island, De eso no se habla will hopefully provoke new debate, bringing to public attention the particular case of Cuba and the groups and individuals who are tirelessly working to transform their society.

He has already shot a number of scenes for De eso no se habla, and noted essayist and activist Roberto Zurbano is an advisor.

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