Sara Gómez, a Cuban filmmaker who was banned for exposing failed promises to Afro-Cubans

Michael Eli Dokosi Jul 23, 2020 at 03:00pm

July 23, 2020 at 03:00 pm | History, Women of Value

Michael Eli Dokosi

Michael Eli Dokosi | Staff Writer

July 23, 2020 at 03:00 pm | History, Women of Value

Sara Gómez via Wikimedia Commons

Sara Gómez born November 8, 1942 was a Cuban filmmaker, who by 31 had passed but she left behind a rich body of work. During the early years of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art & Industry (ICAIC), she was one of only two black filmmakers in attendance. She was also the institute’s first and for her lifetime, Cuba’s only woman director.

As a revolutionary film maker, Gómez focused not only on wider social inequalities that Afro-Cubans were subjected to, but specifically “the socio-economic annihilation of Black women in a post-revolutionary Cuba.”

She critiqued the Cuban revolutionary society for failing its promises of equality to Afro-Cubans. “As a consequence much of her work was sanctioned and restricted by the Cuban government, not made publicly available until 2007 when they began to be digitized.”

Gómez is celebrated for her first and final feature-length film De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another) (1977), although she put in other stellar works including Iré a Santiago released in 1964, …y tenemos sabor (1967) and Una isla para Miguel (1968).

Her “filmmaking identified the problems of colonialism, specifically experienced by previously marginalized communities (black people, women, poor, religious, and young people) who were unaware of the possibilities of a better future.”

She exposed inequalities in the Cuban society via divisions of class, racial discrimination, and gender using the lens of her camera and ethnographic knowledge.

Popularly known as Sarita Gómez, she was raised in the Havana neighborhood of Guanabacoa – an Afro-Cuban popular culture hub by her paternal grandmother and four aunts.

She trained at the Conservatory of Music in Havana becoming a musician and ethnographer having studied music (piano), literature, and Afro-Cuban ethnography.

Although not poor herself as she was brought up around scholars, she opted to use her voice to shine light on the less fortunate.

“Gómez explored journalism by writing for the youth magazine Mella and for the Communist Party newspaper Noticias de Hoy (News of Today) – before taking a position at the newly formed Instituto Cubano Del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC).”

At the ICAIC, she served as assistant director to Jorge Fraga, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and Agnès Varda. She became the first female film director in Cuba.

“She married fellow director Hector Veitia and had daughter Iddia. In 1967 on set of Y tenemos sabor she met Germinal Hernandez. They met working together, she was the director and he was a sound technician. They started an affair and later married and had two children, Ibis and Alfredo.”

Gómez’s last film, the hybrid narrative/documentary De cierta manera, (translated for US audiences as One Way or Another) has been hailed as the “first movie to truly explore conflicting threads of racial and gender identity within a revolutionary context.”

Gómez died before the film could be completed and so Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Rigoberto Lopez, and Julio García Espinosa supervised the sound-mix and post-production stages.

In 2004, the Swiss filmmaker Alessandra Muller directed the documentary film: Sara Gómez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker (2004), supported both by ICAIC and Agnès Varda. Gómez died from asthma attack in 1974.

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