Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  37 minutes
Date:  2019
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Spanish / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color
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Rethinking Cuban Civil Society

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Unveils the complexities of a Cuban society frequently misrepresented by the media.

Rethinking Cuban Civil Society

A young man in a baseball cap with “MIAMI” emblazoned on the front sits on a curb, looking at his phone. Beside him, an older man looks over his shoulder at the screen. Other Cubans sit on the curb or on the steps behind it, staring at their phones and tablets. In Cuba, a scene like this would have once been unthinkable. But since 2015, the government has loosened the rules on Internet access, allowing citizens to go online with their devices (for a fee) at designated WiFi hotspots.

The spread of online access—and people taking advantage of it for activities like blogging about politics and culture—is one of the signs of a renewed interest in bolstering Cuban civil society. But Cuba faces unique challenges in bolstering citizen engagement.

Near the start of RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY, the film offers a definition of its central theme. “Civil society: The aggregate of non-governmental organizations and individuals that manifest the will and interests of citizens.” Then, on the screen, the word “non-governmental” is crossed out. It is a striking visual illustration of Cuba’s unique situation—one in which the public sector dominates much of society, playing an ambiguous role in civil society institutions.

Since the mid-1990s, Cuba has seen a rise in independent media, and a resurgence of movements fighting against racism, for economic justice and LGBTQI rights, and for greater democracy and citizen participation. In RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY, Cuban academics, journalists and bloggers, and writers and musicians grapple with what it means to encourage healthy public participation and dissent in the context of Cuba: a country under embargo in which foreign-funded dissidents seek to overthrow the government, and at the same time a country in which the Communist Party has placed itself above the State.

In city parks and apartments, on stairwells, in classrooms, and in magazine offices, the people featured in RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY grapple with these questions. Can more competitive elections and greater democracy exist in a one-party State? How can LGBTQI activists successfully influence government policy? How can access to the benefits of economic reforms allowing private business be extended to marginalized populations? Can the government help encourage a healthy, independent media eco-system? And how much of the stifling of civil society can be blamed on the embargo and how much is simply home-grown?

Thoughtful and engaging, the film is conveniently divided into chapters on class and activism, media, Internet and the blogosphere, political opposition, and Cuban civil society across international borders. 

There are few accounts of Cuba that focus on the broad and growing outlets of citizen participation that seek to change the society from within. RETHINKING CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY is a rare and accomplished film that showcases varied voices from the alternative media, blogosphere, LGBTQ, feminist, and anti-racist movements of Cubans who seek to preserve the gains of the revolution while voicing their critiques. This film should be seen widely. —Sujatha Fernandes, University of Sydney

Distributor credits

A film by María Isabel Alfonso

Docuseek2 subjects

Latin American Studies
Economics
Globalization
Labor Studies
Human Rights
Social Policy
Cuba

Distributor subjects


Cuba
Labor Studies
Economics
Political Science
Latin America
Economic Sociology

Keywords

; "Rethinking Cuban Civil Society"; Icarus Films; Cuba; Cuba Media Project; Latin America; ; "Rethinking Cuban Civil Society"; Icarus Films

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