'Mariela Castro's March' Review: Changing minds in Cuba
An HBO documentary about transgender persecution raises more questions
than it answers.
By JOHN ANDERSON
Nov. 24, 2016 5:19 p.m. ET
"Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution,"
Monday, 9 p.m., HBO.
As a venue for high-quality nonfiction films, HBO Documentaries has few
peers. So it's with some dismay that one drinks in "Mariela Castro's
March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution," which is, at best, weak filmmaking and,
at worst, pure propaganda. Like courtroom lawyers, documentary makers
should never raise questions they can't really answer, and there's no
trace of an answer to the question at the heart of the film: What do Ms.
Castro's father, President Raúl, or her uncle—Fidel—think about her
efforts to normalize relations between their idealized society and the
transgender people who have been persecuted as a matter of policy since
Well, as Ms. Castro says, changing attitudes toward homosexuality in
Cuba is a tough fight, "even if your name is Castro." It's the only time
she alludes to who she is, or the people she knows.
To give director Jon Alpert the benefit of the doubt, he was probably
under considerable constraints in making his film, which portrays Ms.
Castro as La Pasionaria of LGBT Cuba, but fails to address what any
viewer would want to know—namely, what Ms. Castro's mission is all about
and why it doesn't include asking her father to change government
policies. Do her connections shield her from abuse, or even prosecution?
She mentions toward the end of the 45-minute film that she is the only
member of Cuba's Parliament to ever vote "no" on a bill (labor
legislation that failed to include protections for transgender workers).
But this will just aggravate the sense in the audience that it's getting
something less than the full story.
The status of LGBT society in Cuba is a little vague: Same-sex
relationships were decriminalized in 1979, but, of course, stigmas
remain, and as we see in "Mariela Castro's March," attitudes take time
to evolve. What Mr. Alpert gives us are parades, galas and baseball
games, and visits with various members of the LGBT community in Cuba:
Luis Perez, for instance, an older gay man, reflects on his experience
in a forced-labor camp, which excluded him later from education and
employment; Margarita Diaz, a former member of Cuba's national tennis
team, was ousted, she says, for being a lesbian. Brothers Juani and
Santi discuss their fractious relationship as kids, when Juani—Cuba's
first female-to-male beneficiary of sexual-reassignment surgery—was a
girl. "I beg your forgiveness," Santi says, referring to his bullying of
Juani as a child. It's a moment utterly lacking in spontaneity.
"Lots of people support my work," Ms. Castro says. How about Dad? We
know how her husband feels: On a bus trip to a pro-LGBT event, they
hug—everyone, she says, should have their happiness. "Sometimes," she
adds, "couples feel like strangling each other." A few more candid
moments like that would have made for a better movie.
Source: 'Mariela Castro's March' Review: Changing minds in Cuba - WSJ -