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Film program on March 1 addresses Cuban LGBT politics
by Matt Simonette
2019-02-28

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The next installment of Cuban Visions, a year-long film series exploring both early revolutionary and contemporary Cuban life and culture, will explore the impact of LGBT politics and on the nation.

The program, featuring filmmaker Damian Sainz and writer/activist Norge Espinosa Mendoza, takes place Friday, March 1, at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., at 7 p.m. and features, among other short documentaries by Sainz, the film Bateria, about an old fortress outside Havana that now is home to a burgeoning cruising scene. A discussion focusing on gender identity, LGBTQ politics and efforts to bring about constitutional reform on gay marriage in Cuba follows.

Alexandra Halkin, director of the Americas Media Initiative, which is organizing the event, said that Bateria and the other films "show a side of reality that American audiences rarely see, dealing with Afro-Cubans and other people who are really marginalized economically. They also deal with youth culture. … [Sainz] is also very articulate in discussing LGBTQ realities in Cuba, and in Havana in particular."

The purpose of the evening is not to focus on the filmmaking process, but, rather, the socio-cultural milieus Sanz trains his cameras on, Halkin added. As such, Espinosa Mendoza was invited to lend his perspective on Cuban LGBT activism. He noted the importance for Cuban LGBT people to find forums in which to seek common ground and exchange ideas.

"To make the decision to be a gay activist in Cuba right now, is to deal with the lack of spaces where you can share and establish ideas, and be open," Espinosa Mendosa said. " … What we are trying to do right now is find new spaces and find new links between not only our people, but the people surrounding us. Cuba is changing now."

Sainz added, "For me, filmmaking is about creating a sense of collectiveness and connectivity, and finding links that people can build on to create a network. … There are some places in Cuba right now where you do find "safe spaces" and this willpower to create them. Some of are quite intersectional and they are not dealing only with gender stuff; they're also dealing with race, class and other differences in background."

Halkin added that she hopes the Cuban Visions programs "can use film as a jumping-off point, to look at issues more in depth that are of interest to both Cuban audiences and Chicago audiences. I tried to structure the programs around topics where I feel the Chicago audience would have commonality."


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