The media plays a critical role in our society. It can be an informative but double-edged sword. It can control the masses or conceal the truth. For example, television and radio played a vital role in bringing change to former leftist societies in Europe. East Berlin received radio and television broadcasts from West Berlin before the Berlin Wall was destroyed by the masses in 1990. Hungary received broadcasts from Austria and the Baltic States from the Gulf of Finland.
In the case of Cuba, the media was first used to bring about change to a corrupt dictatorship turning into a socialist society with ties to the Soviet Union under the guidance of a young Marxist-Leninist. Currently, the role of the media in Cuba is complex. It reflects the everyday living conditions of Cubans, the ideology of a government, and its connection to the rest of the Caribbean, Latin America and the world.
We must look at the history of the second half of the last century to understand the change in the media and the importance of a revolution. We must also take into consideration the cultural and economic factors of an island oppressed by a bigger nation---the United States. I will discuss here the role of the media in Cuba within a historical and critical context. Media elements such as newspapers, radio, television, and film play a critical role in the daily lives of Cubans as well as in the outside world.
Is the media a weapon of a socialist government to suppress its people? Is it a pure form of entertainment? Is it educational?
In Chapter I, I present the social background through a timeline of the last 45 years, the beginnings of new government headed by a young and charismatic leader. Conflict was vividly present between the United States and Cuba due to their different political ideals. Both countries made numerous attempts to find a common ground for their mutual benefit. Meanwhile, the media in Cuba was slowly molded and appeared to gain much more importance than before in the war of politics, especially in the fight against imperialism and the U.S. embargo.
In Chapter II, I discuss the beginnings of the Cuban media as a weapon of the revolution, beginning with the most important radio station and followed by the newspapers. The chapter is divided into three sections: anti-Castro media, broadcast television and film and Russian rifles. The first section looks at Radio/TV Martí, a television station created by the U.S. government to inform and motivate Cubans on the island to rise against the Castro regime. The second section looks at television programming in Cuba. The third section looks at Cuban propaganda films supporting the socialist government. The two most important films in this category are Soy Cuba (1964) and Memorias del Subdesarrollo (1968).
Chapter III is a memoir of my experience filming ordinary people and living their everyday life. The original idea was to spend time filming four young men and women ranging in age from 18 to 30. The purpose was to uncover their thoughts and feelings about their battered island, its past, present and future, as well as their feelings about the faraway outside world. After months of brainstorming and planning the documentary, three out of the four individuals decided not to continue with the project. The main reason for this was that I did not establish strong relationships with the subjects to gain their trust. I met several of them in a restricted environment---an academic setting---where it is inappropriate to talk to a foreigner about Cuba and their situation. Only one young man agreed to continue to work with me.
back 2 basics is the title of my thesis project. It is a short nonfiction experimental piece observing the lives of two individuals from the same original environment, living worlds apart. One subject lives in the United States and the other in Cuba. The documentary explores the themes of alienation, struggle, the American dream and death.
As a yuma (a term in reference to foreigners and the outside world), I tried to capture the reality of one young person in Cuba, always reminding myself I was not going to understand a place that is so complex that even its own citizens cannot fully understand it. Simultaneously, I explore another story that takes place in more familiar setting. It looks at an almost pristine life of a young man trying to find his way in an unknown place, the United States.
The two stories demonstrate both similarities and contrasts, illuminating each other. My goal was to examine these two lives and come to conclusions based on my own experience.