After the Revolution: Strawberry and Chocolate, or the Politics of Reconciliation
The release, in 1993, of the popular Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate, by directors Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio and with a script by Senel Paz, occasioned a lively debate about its content and significance. The debate was in itself predictable, given both the subject of the film—the sentimental education of two Cuban men, one gay and the other straight—and the specific circumstance in which the film was produced—the so-called Cuban “special period” following the collapse of Real Socialism in Europe and thus in the middle of the worst crisis the Castro regime faced in its then 38-year history Whereas outside of Cuba the film was hailed as further evidence that perestroïka had reached the island and the Castro brothers were finally releasing their grip on dissidence, within the Cuban community, both in the island and among exiles, the film sparked conflicting opinions. Some viewed it as an unwitting critique of the Cuban State’s long-standing repression of gays; others saw it as manipulative, further proof of the regime s ongoing deception about its actual policies, particularly at a moment when it was attempting to win over allies abroad in order to resolve an economic and political crisis. The debate appeared to reach a climax when the film was bought up by Miramax for U.S. distribution and nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film. And it appeared to resolve itself when the film lost out to no less than Russia’s entry in the same contest.
KeywordsHistorical Sense Political Reconciliation Improper Conduct Final Scene Work Camp
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- 1.All references are to Strawberry and Chocolate [Fresa y chocolate], a film by Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio. A production of the Cuban Institute of the Arts and Films Industry (ICAIC), coproduced by IMCINE and Tabasco Films-Mexico, Telemadrid and SGAE-Spain; 104 minutes. The film is based on a story by Senel Paz, “El lobo, el bosque y el nombre nuevo,” Union (Edición Continental), I (1991), 25–35Google Scholar
- Nedda G. de Anhalt, “Eróica, exóica y estrambñca,” Voces y refles, vol. 3, no. 9 (1994), 51–56Google Scholar
- Dennis West, “Strawberry and Chocolate, Ice Cream and Tolerance. Interviews with Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío,” Cinéaste, vol. 21, nos. 1–2 (1995), 16–20Google Scholar
- 2.For an overview of these issues, see Grupo de Trabajo, Memoria, Verdady Justicia, Cuba: la reconciliation national (Miami: Centro para America Latina y el Caribe, Universidad Internacional de la Florida, 2003).Google Scholar
- 4.For contrasting readings of the story see Emilio Bejel, “Senel Paz: homosexualidad, nacional-ismo y utopia,” Plural, 269 (February 1994), 58–65Google Scholar
- 16.Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination. Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 14–15.Google Scholar
- 17.Caryl Flynn, Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen, Ed. Jacky Bratton, Jim Cook, Christine Gledhill (London: British Film Institute, 1994), 108.Google Scholar