Just a few months after the Bay of Pigs Invasion – a fiasco for the US, but a triumph for the Cuban Revolution – Fidel Castro’s “Speech to Intellectuals on 30 June 1961” marked a crucible in the Revolution’s stance on the artistic obligation to the revolutionary state: “Within the Revolution, everything. Outside of the Revolution, nothing.” [“Con la Revolución, todo. Fuera de la Revolución, nada.”] This speech, however, also touches a deep and dangerous concern of the arts: the relation of representation to a polity. Indeed, within five years, the eminent Cuban director, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, would render a wild visual critique of “the tyranny of red tape,” in some moments hilarious and in others disturbing, including a critique of the state’s over-eager hand on the corpus of the arts.
This course will move through major cinematic works of the Revolution, but mindful of several important themes: the historically precarious relation of the artist to the polity; exile’s specific meaning in Cuba’s context; the 1972 “Padilla Affair,” which landed various writers and artists in precarious situations, including incarceration, for being homosexual; the major migrations from the island; the idea of Cuba today as a diasporic nation; and, very importantly, the economic shifts ongoing now, which place Cuba into a radically different global position after the crises of the “Special Period” of the 90s and early 2000s. We will constantly question the relation of the intellectual and artist to the state, and their respective concerns about the image and linguistic representation. Towards the end of the course, we will also consider recent and distinct philosophical returns to a notion of “the commons” and communism emergent from within global capitalism today (Zizek, Negri, Badiou).
The list of feature-length film may include: Soy Cuba (1964), La muerte de un burócrata/Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), Las Aventuras de Juan Quin Quin/The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin (1967), Memorias del subdesarrollo/Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), La última cena/The Last Supper (1976), Maluala (1979), El Súper (1979), Cecilia (1983), Fresa y chocolate/Strawberry and Chocolate (1994), Guantanamera (1995), La vida es