GEF Movie Night: “Return to Cuba”

A short while ago I attended a GEF-Sponsored movie night, featuring the 2016 independent film/documentary entitled “Return to Cuba.”

Featuring one Barbara Ramos, a native Cuban woman who returns to her hometown of Santa Clara after 18 years of living in Italy, the true story chronicles her life upon return to her dear Cuba, and the process of building her dream home over the course of three years.

While watching the film, I felt as if I developed an intimate relationship with Barbara, because she leaves no stone unturned when it comes to her description/observation of life in Cuba, especially during and after the Communist revolution brought about by Fidel Castro.

There were so many things that I loved about the film. The music used in the film, for instance, was excellent at setting the mood and tone of Cuba. It was light and jovial, Which I imagine many days in Cuba are, especially based on the individual interviews throughout the film, which were also a very important aspect of the documentary.

Various different people, from Barbara herself to Barbara’s father, to her friends and neighbors and other locals, are interviewed individually in the film, and they talk about everything from the general happiness of Cubans to the political climate.

It is mentioned several times by interviewees that Cuba is a special place, because in Cuba, people enjoy life more than in other places. People are happier with less in Cuba, and they only work so that they can enjoy life, whereas in other (especially Western) countries, it is often seen that people live to work. It is also said that personal relationships are more important in Cuba than they are in other countries; in the West, everything is done with cell phones, which is something that Cubans simply don’t do.

As for the political climate in Cuba, different people had different opinions. Some liked Cuba’s socialist economy, claiming that the free healthcare and education in Cuba is very valuable (“my husband had a foot operation, and we paid nothing”), while other see the value in capitalism, especially concerning the fact that many Cubans must make their money using black market trading systems. One man remarked that capitalism is “the same watchdog as socialism, just wearing a different collar.” I think there is truth to those words.

Some people thought that improving relations with the US would be very good for Cuba and the Cuban economy, while others recognized that the US does nothing for free, and that the US will always adopt an imperialist behavior. There is only one thing that can be generally agreed upon, and that is that US relations will take time. I think that, in the long run, there are some Cubans who will be better off when US relations improve. However, I think the poorest of Cubans may end up even worse off. Only time will tell.

I knew little of Cuba or Cuban culture prior to watching the film, and I am so happy that I attended the event, because I feel like I learned a lot, and I would love to visit Cuba one day.

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