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Damas de Blanco

Ivana Miloševič / Czech Republic / 2008 / 58 min

Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) is an organisation of mothers, wives and sisters who together fight for the release of 75 political prisoners given extremely stiff sentences by the Cuban regime in spring 2003. The women meet every Sunday and hold silent protest marches as an expression of their demand for the immediate freeing of these men, their husbands, sons and family members. They do not regard themselves as a political movement as they have not overthrown a government or brought about any reform. The European parliament gave the Damas de Blanco the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in acknowledgement of their peaceful but determined campaign, which will not end until all of the men have been released from prison. In this film by the Bosnian–born Czech documentary–maker Ivana Miloševič, women tell their own personal stories openly; they discuss what it means to be a woman in Cuba and what it is like when their beloved is labelled an enemy of the state. However, they mainly speak about their burning desire to see their men freed.

Voices from the Island of Freedom

Script: Peter Jancárek, Petr Kowalski
Camera and director: Petr Jancárek
Duration: 28 minutes

The film was produced by the People In Need Organization and Czech Television. It is a unique collection of testimonies of Castro‘s former prisoners and the families of current ones, which were filmed in Cuba in autumn 2000. The interviews are augmented with archival footage from Cuban prisons.

"A prisoner who complains - they beat up. They beat his head or face and then put him in a cell. Until all his wounds heal , they won‘t let him have a visitor. If you accuse a guard, the situation becomes worse. The management of the prison accuse you of insulting an official person and they add 8, 10 or 15 years and you won‘t solve anything“, says Benito Fojaco Iser, a member of the democratic opposition who spent 10 years in prison.

The Cuban Spring

“The Cuban Spring” is a profound look at the current-day Cuban underground and its activities against the intense propaganda machine of the Fidel Castro regime. The main protagonist of the documentary is Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, an internationally recognized leader of the Cuban dissident movement. Payá speaks on camera about the dissidents’ efforts to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy on the island. These efforts continue despite the worst wave of repression in decades, which was instigated by the Castro regime in March of 2003. As a result of this crackdown, more than 70 opposition leaders and independent journalists were imprisoned with jail sentences of up to 28 years. “The Cuban Spring” captures on video some interviews with these activists prior to their imprisonment.

Emotional testimonies are also offered by some of the prisoners’ wives, grandmothers, and friends, all of which were recorded only two months after the crackdown. “The Cuban Spring” relates not only the fear of the Cuban people, but also the hopes of a population that desires change and of a growing opposition movement that believes its efforts to establish democratic freedoms in Cuba will not go in vain. Because of the Cuban government’s strong blockade on the flow of information out of the island, as well as the existence of laws that restrict the production of documentaries like “The Cuban Spring,” both the filming of this video and its transportation out of the country were conducted in secret.

If you are interested in any of the the films listed here, please contact People in Need, the ICDC Secretariat, for further information and/or viewing copies at: icdc@peopleinneed.cz

 
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This project is supported by funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic through the Transition Promotion Program.