The following is one of the entries from my list of the 100 greatest films (through 2006) from Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Sara Gómez Yera was 30 when asthma took her life in 1974. Both Cuba’s first woman filmmaker and first Afro-Cuban filmmaker, the former documentarian was making her first feature. (France’s Agnès Varda had been a mentor.) The film was completed by Julio García Espinosa and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, who would pay homage to its style, a fusion of documentary and fictional elements, in his Up to a Certain Point (1983). Gómez’s film, called in the States One Way or Another (In a Certain Way might be more accurate), was partly based on her love affair with a sound technician. In the film, Yolanda is a middle-class schoolteacher; Mario, a factory worker. Moreover, Mario, who is racially mixed, is misogynistic, tied to machismo; by contrast, Yolanda embraces the new sociopolitical order. The divide between lovers may be characterized as past versus future, pre-Castro and post-Batista. Yet Gómez is sharply critical of Cuba’s persistent attachment to elements of classism, racism, sexism; some of this she lays at (what she sees as) Castro’s authoritarian door. These elements are explored in various interruptions of the main story, including newsreel footage, interviews, direct addresses and related elements. Jean-Luc Godard may be a direct influence (or, through Varda, an indirect one).
On the one hand, the film records improvements in the Cuban human landscape. For instance, a principal setting is a housing project that has replaced one of Batista’s horrific slums. Also, Yolanda’s pupils are from the underclass, which Batista had banned from schooling. However, worrisome cultural behaviors persist, such as the Cuban penchant for indolence. A moral crisis for Mario arises when he considers reporting a fellow worker who has taken off from work to have sex.
Both leads are nonprofessional. Yolanda is played by a Yolanda; Mario, by a Mario.
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