On Location in Cuba

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On Location in Cuba: Street Filmmaking during Times of Transition
Ann Marie Stock
2009, University of North Carolina Press
340 pages

MADAGASCAR was, Fernando Pérez believed, the last film he would make. Set in the depressing depths of Cuba’s “special period” of dramatic transformation following the (official) end of the Cold War, his country had descended into an economic crisis deeper than any hitherto experienced. Pérez, a veteran filmmaker in Cuba’s national institute, was convinced it would be his last work: there were shortages of film stock, no fuel to transport equipment, little food to feed crews, and no hard currency to produce, edit and distribute films. Yet he forged ahead and made a film that has become synonymous with this difficult era, reflecting poignantly, but also hopefully, on the harsh reality faced by Cubans. The film and others from the period contain many clues as to how Cubans remained anchored in that difficult time, and Ann Marie Stock’s valuable exploration of film, video and audiovisual art identifies and explains these. This is an important work that contributes to broader questions about the response of the Cuban people to this pivotal moment in their island’s history. Through the lens of cinema, the author observes the end of the Cold War and Cuba’s loss of a political model and financial patron, the ensuing economic crisis, the beginning of efforts to engage with the global networks, and how the state reconfigured its relations with an expanding civil society. The author addresses theoretical questions that relate to cinema and identity, and finds intriguing answers in the cultural production of Cubans themselves. – EC

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