Santería and Resistance in Tomás Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío’s Strawberry and Chocolate and in Fernando Pérez’s Life is to Whistle

  • Author(s): David S. Dalton
  • When: 2016-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • The 1990s were a politically, socially, and economically turbulent decade for Cuba. It is neither surprising that it was during these years that the state amended its approach to religious freedom nor that it was during this time that Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to the island. Following the pontiff’s visit, the state amended the constitution and declared itself secular rather than Marxist, thus removing much of the stigma that believers had previously faced. In this article I analyze the relationship between the national cinema and religious freedom by showing that many Cuban directors challenged official constructs of religious belief both prior to and following the pope’s visit. I focus on two films—Tomás Guitiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío’s Strawberry and Chocolate (1993) and Fernando Pérez’s Life is to Whistle (1998)—and argue that religious practice as imagined here constitutes a resistant act as it provides a path through which historically marginalized people can recover their voice. Nevertheless, this form of resistance does not aim to effect major political changes; instead, it simply attempts to uplift those whom the Cuban Revolution has failed to incorporate into the nation. Indeed, the directors of these films use their (religious) protagonists—each of whom fails to live up to the demands of the Revolution—to imagine a system of belief that accepts marginalized subjects without requiring them to change.

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