Cubans Are Free to Criticize… Which System?

Yusimi Rodriguez

being-thereHAVANA TIMES — Over the last few weeks, Cuban TV has put on several films about the US political system. Great films, I must say, from the comedy “Being There”, with Peter Sellers playing the main character to “Frost/Nixon”, showing “Scandal” along the way, which had two legends such as Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro playing the lead roles.

It has to be said, those responsible for Cuba’s TV programming have really delighted us. For example, on Sunday August 30th, at the same time the channel Multivision was showing Frost/Nixon, just after “State of Play” (an amazing film which I’ve seen three times and I never get tired of watching it), Canal Habana was showing “The Ides of March”.

And if you thought that after “The Ides of March” you’d have to give in to watching another part of the X Men series, you’d be wrong. Canal Habana put on another film of the same style that looked promising, but my need to go to sleep was greater.

I love these kinds of films, preferring them to action films, spectacular chases and plots that are nearly always weak, that don’t try to do anything else but entertain the viewer. However, when I see so many movie names about the US political system in such a short space of time (three, only on Sunday), I become skeptical.

Is cinema-quality the only reason for those who decide what movies we watch, to show these films together at this time? Is it coincidence that our government media is recently reporting that, in spite of the thawing of relations, Barack Obama’s government is the same as those that preceded him who want to reverse our country’s economic, political and social system?

March led by Fidel Castro in front of the US Interests Section (now Embassy) demanding the return of Elian González to Cuba.
March led by Fidel Castro in front of the US Interests Section (now Embassy) demanding the return of Elian González to Cuba.

Prior to this, the official Granma newspaper had published statistics about human rights violations… committed in the US, of course. That’s why it’s hard for me to believe that this was all a coincidence, in the face of this avalanche of (brilliant) films that show how the threads of US politics are pulled, corruption and media manipulation.

If the objective of those who programed these movies to be shown on TV was to get rid of any idealized image we Cubans may have about that country, any vestige of admiration for its system, they were successful. However, they also managed to make a lot of us notice the following: these are US movies that are shown in the US.

Could we expect to see a film that criticizes our own system in such depth on Cuban TV? For example a film about the entire campaign to get Elian Gonzalez back, which included pressure and threats to workers, so that they would go to marches and public rallies?

I experienced this personally as a teacher at a technological school. We were told we didn’t have to go to class on several occasions, so that we were ready to go to the protest or to the Anti-imperialist bandstand at a certain time. Not going would cost you your salary that day. At other times, we were warned that if we were absent from the activity then it would be considered a behavioral problem, which would then be taken into account in our year end evaluation and therefore be taken away from our salary, as well as being noted on our professional record.

Carlos Lage (l) and Felipe Perez Roque.
Carlos Lage (l) and Felipe Perez Roque.  Foto:

Will we ever see a film about high-profile corruption in Cuba, not just in the US, without having to find this kind of material on USBs that are passed around? It seems unlikely especially if we remember the fact that Professor Esteban Morales was punished by the Communist Party for having reported corruption, and that audiovisual material about Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque (the former top government executive and the foreign minister) being dismissed was only shown to CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) leaders and selected citizens. Not all of us were fit to watch it.

It’s hard to believe that one day we will be able to see Cuban films that show and criticize the system in-depth, when Cuban residents in Cuba can’t even access the webpages we want to, in spite of paying almost 10% of our average salary to connect just for an hour.

This is the country whose government decided what the citizens, who owed their literacy to them, could read. The country where having a copy of George Orwell’s “1984”, written and published before the Revolution, cost somebody I know their job as a teacher.

But hey, why are we complaining? We have “free” healthcare and education, we can read “1984” now (published at the last Havana Book Fair) and just like the comedian El Vacan de la Vida says, we can even say whatever we want about the President… the US President, of course.

3 thoughts on “Cubans Are Free to Criticize… Which System?

  • Of course all systems have their problems & most of us would agree that there is a great deal of corruption in our governments (Canada & U.S.). However at least we can say what we think of our governments without fear of reprisal.

  • Public criticism of Fidel or Raul is a crime in Cuba punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

  • Of the films mentioned, the only one I have seen is Being There. It would be interesting to see it through Cuban eyes. What would they conclude about the standard of living in the U. S., daily life, race relations?
    And I wonder what they might think of the choice in the current U. S. election, where the ‘anti-corruption’ candidate is a misogynist and racist pig as well as being ignorant in general.

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