Documentary Tackles Child Abuse in Cuba
By Patricia Grogg Reprint
Patricia Grogg interviews ERIC CORVALÁN, Cuban independent filmmaker
HAVANA, Dec 18 2012 (IPS) - "Child abuse merits a different, in-depth
approach. The objective of this film is to make the problem visible and
promote debate and reflection," says Eric Corvalán, director of a
documentary that required "breaking through walls."
In the film "No es el camino" (This is not the way), prominent Cuban
experts discuss child abuse. Social issues are nothing new to Corvalán.
In 2008 he premiered "Raza" (Race), about the no-less thorny issue of
That documentary won a number of awards, including the David Prize
awarded by the University of Oriente, for its contribution to education.
However, it has yet to be shown on Cuban television.
"When I asked why (it hasn't been shown), they told me that it was a
controversial issue, and that our society wasn't ready to see it on
television. If that was the case with 'Raza,' then I imagine that the
same thing will happen with 'No es el camino'," the independent
filmmaker, who is a member of the Cuban Audiovisual Association (ACAV),
told IPS in this interview.
His documentary premiered in Havana on Sept. 25 as a demonstration of
the commitment by the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Reflection and Solidarity
Group to the U.N. secretary-general's UNiTE to End Violence against
Women campaign, which celebrates Orange Day on the 25th of each month.
Q: Why child abuse and not another issue for your second documentary?
A: Because it is an issue that has hardly been addressed. If we
acknowledge that domestic violence exists, then we need to know what is
going on with the children, who suffer the most. They cannot defend
themselves, and they are subject to that violence in different ways:
physical, psychological and sexual. Walking through the city, I have
seen mothers and fathers who abuse their children in public.
Q: Where does this problem occur?
A: Mostly within the family. The abuser may be an uncle, a cousin, the
mother or the father. They scold the child, use disparaging language, or
shake or pull the child – as if these were educational methods. That's
why I made the documentary, for children and also for parents, other
relatives and the world in general.
The documentary makes it clear that many institutions are working on
this issue, but there is no follow-up on cases and no specific law
exists. The Penal Code includes a very general reference to the normal
development of children and women.
Q: But there is a Family Code.
A: That legislation dates back to 1975. Since then, three generations
have gone by…and it hasn't been changed. In its time, it was very
advanced, but now it's not. Child abuse merits an in-depth approach. For
example, in situations of economic crisis, social inequalities increase
and children are the most vulnerable.
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Q: The documentary brings together a good group of specialists on the
matter, but does not include the testimony of any children. Why?
A: They are not in the documentary directly, because in Cuba, if you
don't have official authorisation you can't interview a child and place
him or her onscreen. The objective of this material was to make the
phenomenon visible and to protect children. Before interviewing the
specialists, I visited several communities in the city and talked to
many boys and girls. I realised that the problem is cause for concern.
Children are very sincere, and you can find out about anything talking
to them. Both boys and girls are very sensitive and they feel and suffer
from problems without having anybody to turn to.
There is no infrastructure in Cuba where children can go and make a
complaint. What is needed is a daily education campaign, teaching
parents how to listen to their children and to know about their
obligations to them.
Q: Do you feel that child abuse should not exist in a society like Cuba's?
A: When we talk about violence in Cuba, we immediately begin comparing
it to other countries, as a defence mechanism. There is less violence
here than in other places, but it does exist. "A single boy or girl who
is mistreated in this country is a serious problem for us," said one of
the people interviewed, Dr. Cristóbal Martínez, of the national
children's psychiatry group.
Our society is machista. We are violent and loud, but at the same time
we are very humane and have a high educational level. These are
tremendous contradictions, and in the face of a phenomenon like this,
you wonder why it exists and what is being done to solve it.
Q: The documentary premiered in September. Why hasn't it been screened
A: In May 2013, it will compete in the Santiago Álvarez (documentary
film festival) in Santiago de Cuba. It will also be shown in
international festivals in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, France, Canada, and
the United States. Moreover, I hope that it will be used as a tool for
studies by international and Cuban organisations.
Q: What was your greatest challenge in taking on such a sensitive social
A: The main challenge was simply to do it – that is, to break through
the walls of censorship and fear. I'm using these big words because
making a film about violence of any kind is very difficult. Another main
challenge now is for people to see it, and discuss and debate it. The
idea of issues being discussed is now being promoted in our country,
including at the level of the state.