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Gender in Cuban Cinema

From the Modern to the Postmodern


Guy Baron

A film institute was the first cultural institution to be created by the new Cuban revolutionary government in 1959. One of its aims was to create a new cinema to suit the needs of the Revolution in a climate of transformation and renewal. During the same period, issues of gender equality and gender relations became important as the Revolution attempted to eradicate some of the negative social tendencies of the past. Through the prism of the gender debate, Cuban cinema both reflected and shaped some of the central ideological concerns on the island at this time.
This book brings together these two extremely significant aspects of the Cuban revolutionary process by examining issues of gender and gender relations in six Cuban films produced between 1974 and 1990. Using close textual analysis and theoretical insights from feminism and postmodernism, the author argues that the portrayal of aspects of gender relations in Cuban cinema developed along a progressive path, from expressions of the modern to expressions of the postmodern.


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Introduction 1


1 Films that take as one of their central concerns issues of gender rela- tions, have formed a significant and disproportionate part of ICAIC’s feature-film production. Indeed, Jean Stubbs (1995: 3) believes that ‘it is probably safe to say that hardly a single film has not addressed, in some way or another, changing gender relations within the Revolution.’ This is a strong claim and has a great deal of truth in it, although the presentation of gender relations is not, of course, the main objective of many Cuban films. However, such has been the ferocity of debate surrounding the subject throughout the Revolution (and particularly during the mid-1970s–mid- 1980s) that any film presenting any relations at all between men and women (and what film does not?) can be viewed with this debate in mind. Catherine Benamou (1999: 67) also believes the issue of gender has been fundamental to the development of a revolutionary society but ques- tions whether issues of dif ference along lines of gender, race, or sexual preference have been adequately explored at an institutional level in Cuba or whether there should be more ‘autonomous spaces within which diverse subjectivities and identities need to be represented.’ So, has Cuba been too concerned with its search for an independent ‘cubanness’ (a singular identity in defence of itself against cultural imperialism) that it has failed to consider suf ficiently the various diverse spaces of dif ference that exist in a debate as wide and complex as that of gender...

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