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HAVERFORD STUDENTS’ DOCUMENTARY ON CUBA PREMIERES ON PUBLIC TELEVISION

Cuba on My Mind, a documentary film created and produced by Haverford College seniors Angelina Conti and Keith Weissglass, premiered on Philadelphia’s public television station WYBE on Friday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. The movie consists of footage shot during the filmmakers’ 2003 spring break trip to the country as part of their course on Cuban literature, art, music and film. It also includes post-trip interviews with students and faculty members who attended.

“We had no script, no set story,” says Weissglass. “We wanted to show what people saw in Cuba and what they got from the experience.”

Haverford’s school-sponsored trips to Cuba began four years ago, when a spring break trip for the varsity baseball team (as part of a program to encourage cultural dialogue through sports) was paired with the educational travels of a class in Cuban politics. Despite the U.S. travel ban, Haverford was able to visit Cuba through a government-issued travel license—though restrictions have been tightened in recent years.

Cuba on My Mind was completed last year and entered in several film festivals. Conti and Weissglass sent the film to programmers at WYBE on Aug. 12, and just a few weeks later they learned that it had been approved for broadcast.

In the film, viewers follow the students as they take a bicycle tour of Havana; visit a medical specialist clinic and the Superior School of the Arts; stop at an agricultural cooperative to learn more about the country’s farming industry; wind their way through the narrow streets of the colonial city of Santiago; and join in a lively street demonstration of the rumba. Houses of worship, historical buildings, and religious rituals are among the vivid visual representations of Cuban culture.

In their interviews, students and faculty members discussed Cubans’ friendly welcome and eagerness to clear up any American misperceptions about the country. They reflected on the fact that the residents did not blame them for the U.S. government’s policies toward Cuba. They praised the class freedoms and financial choices available to Cubans but worried about government censorship hindering the intellectual community. They expressed hope that Cuban-American relations would improve, and planned to keep in touch with the friends they met during their travels.

The film’s power comes from the politically ambiguous tone chosen by the filmmakers. “We ask questions without drawing conclusions,” says Conti. “The viewers draw their own.”

“There aren’t any easy answers, and nothing is black and white,” says Weissglass. “We show the benefits and the pitfalls of the socialist system in Cuba, and present a side of the country that America hasn’t seen.”

For more information or to watch the film, visit www.cubaonmymind.com.

 

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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