Eliezer Perez Angueira directed this fascinating documentary on the precarious existence of gays and lesbians in Cuba. While anti-gay discriminatory laws were in place long before the Castro revolution, the overthrow of the Batista regime seemed to ignite a new era of homophobia. The revolutionary reasoning: homosexuality was a side effect of capitalism.
Anyone who was suspected of being homosexual was sent to forced labor camps, and by 1971 employment for openly gay Cubans was limited to the arts and education. Many LGBT Cubans were able to escape the regime via the Mariel boatlift, but others refused to be forced out of their country and grimly persisted in staying true to their heritage and identities amid police repression and societal apathy.
The film interviews six LGBT Cubans, each with a distinctive personal story of hardship, rejection and indefatigable perseverance. While some of the interview subjects prefer not to show their faces on cameras, others speak defiantly of fighting back against an oppressive system. In some ways, their efforts paid off – by 2010, Castro personally apologized to the nation’s LGBT population for years of state-sanctioned persecution.
Although the production misses some significant aspects of the subject – including the country’s initially harsh reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis and the impact of the groundbreaking 1993 Oscar-nominated “Strawberry and Chocolate,” the first Cuban film with a sympathetic gay central character – it provides a fascinating glimpse into Cuba’s rocky road to tolerance.