Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Films that Make you Think and the Return of Hollywood: Cuban Cinema Between the Socialist State and the Global Market

Revolutionary cinema is critical cinema: this has been the claim of Cuban film workers since the 1959 revolution. In the Enlightenment tradition, however, the social critic must be autonomous and self-determining. The autonomy of Cuban film workers has always been circumscribed by the socialist state. Article 39 of the Cuban constitution forbids artwork with counter-revolutionary content. All films must be approved for production and exhibition by the state’s cinema institution. But since the 1989 collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuban film workers must also compete in the global market. They now depend on foreign revenues and producers for funding. The proposed research asks how Cuban film workers grapple with their lack of autonomy from both state and market. I ask how they define and experience the role of the intellectual in socialism, and how this is changing under the pressure of their new dependence on the market. This research will investigate how the social role and identity of Cuban film workers are shaped through their engagements with the socialist state and the global market, the changing values and beliefs of the professional Cuban film community, and the transition in Cuban film style from political modernism to stylistic features associated with Hollywood. I will participate in and observe film production, the training of film students, debates at official and informal gatherings of Cuban film workers, and film festival competition. I will interview Cuban film workers and state bureaucrats and conduct archival research of Cuban films. Cuba increasingly incorporates market forms, yet it remains wedded to socialism. My research will shed light on the role of Cuban film workers in shaping this local communist culture adrift in a globalizing world. It will examine how Cuban film workers use film to shape a public sphere of open debate within a socialist context.