Remembering AfroCuban Filmmaker Sara Gomez

Sara Gomez filming on location. Image Courtesy of Africanfilm.com

Sara Gomez filming on location. Image Courtesy of Africanfilm.com

(Afro)Latino Heritage Month is an ideal time to remember and celebrate the work of a true trailblazer, Sara Gomez. During her career as a filmmaker and community advocate, Gomez captured the culture and traditions of AfroCuban life. In an industry dominated by men, Gomez’s presence was a brazen challenge to the status quo. Female directors in Cuba, especially those of African descent, were often marginalized and their films were not taken as seriously as those of male counterparts. Sara Gomez was one of the visionaries who started the movement to change this. Gomez was the first female Cuban filmmaker in the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), and her intimate portrayals of women in Cuban society sparked an important cinematic dialogue which continues to this day.

Sara Gomez. Image Courtesy of Tate.org

Sara Gomez. Image Courtesy of Tate.org

Sara Gomez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1943. She studied AfroCuban ethnography and piano at The Conservatory of Music in Havana. She then went on to work at the Cuban Film Institute as an assistant director to several famous Cuban filmmakers. Most notably, she studied under Tomas Gutierrez Alea, whose style influenced her work. Alea’s impact is most evident in Gomez’s best-known film, De Cierta Manera. The film is a love story set in the poor neighborhoods of Havana following the 1959 Cuban Revolution. It examines the cultural consequences of modern development programs in Havana’s slum settlements. The film highlights issues of race, sex and class in Cuba, and its form was as innovative as its content. Gomez combined documentary-style camera work with a fictional narrative; this allowed her to represent material reality, while also providing a creative and critical perspective in the piece.

Gomez’s promising career was cut unexpectedly short in 1971, when she died of an asthma attack at age 31. In 2005, Gomez’s life and work became the subject of a documentary by Alessandra Muller entitled, Sara Gomez – An AfroCuban Filmmaker. Muller’s film includes archival footage of Gomez and rare interviews with family, friends, colleagues and cast members from De Cierta Manera. Muller memorializes a transformative legacy and brings Gomez’s fearless and captivating spirit back to life for viewers. The film is available on Netflix, and, occasionally, free screenings are offered at academic, art and cultural institutions.

by Adrienne Rochetti 

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4 Comments

  1. Julia B

     /  September 19, 2013

    Great post! I hadn’t previously heard of Sara Gomez. Her film De Cierta Manera seems really interesting, development programs often harm those already at a disadvantage. Thanks for the information!

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  2. Reblogged this on ACRAH.

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  3. Danielle T

     /  September 21, 2013

    Its always encouraging and inspirational to read about someone who breaks through societal barriers. Sarah Gomez was not only able to do so as an AfroCuban but as a woman as well. Taking her realities and struggles and being able to showcase them through film most likely contributes to her best known film as people were able to relate to the situations and issues that AfroCubans must face at some point in their lifetime.

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  4. Although Sara Gomez’s life was short, she managed to succeed a great deal in the filmmaking business as an AfroCuban woman and set the path for others wishing to enter that field. Today many minorities are making movies, acting and starting to take that leap of faith in owning their network and studio,giving them the power to support AfroCuban and other minorities.

    Joann

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