Continuing on with the day-to-day happenings at the ongoing African Diaspora International Film Festival here in NYC…
Here are a few highlights from today’s lineup, Monday, December 5.
Cuba: Screening at Teachers College at 8pm will be the 1975 docu-drama titled The Other Francisco (El Otro Francisco), which was based on the novel Francisco by Anselmo Suárez y Romero. Directed by Black Cuban-American filmmaker
Sergio Giral, the film is described as a socio-economic analysis of slavery and class struggle through the retelling of the original novel.
The film contrasts the romantic conceptions of plantation life found in Suárez Romero’s novel with a realistic exposé of the actual historical conditions of slavery throughout the Americas. It offers a critical analysis of the novel, showing how the author’s social background led to his use of particular dramatic structures to convey his liberal, humanitarian viewpoint.
I’m not familiar with either the book or the film, or even the filmmaker; A little research revelead that writer/director Sergio Giral produced several shorts and features while at the ICAIC (The Cuban Film Institute), and this film, El Otro Francisco, is actually part of an internationally acclaimed, award-winning trilogy of works (the other 2 films being Rancheador and Maluala) which centered on slavery in Cuba and the Caribbean in the 19th century;but here’s a snip of one review of the 1975 film I found online:
… “Francisco” is nothing but exceptional. The film is a strange mix of pseudo-documentary techniques and melodramtic reconstruction. It basically refutes the notion that abolitionists (those who campaigned, in Cuba as well as in other nations, against slavery) were simply humanitarians. They had economic motivations for wanting to see slavery ended, a fact which the film attempts to illuminate by revealing that the way abolitionists chose to portray slavery was not, in fact, very close to the reality of slavery. So, first you get a snippet of a scene from a novel written by an abolitionist in (I think) 1868 (or 1858). You see the abolitionist’s vision of the trials and tribulations of life on the plantation for a slave (the hapless Francisco) and his lover (another slave on the same plantation). Then, once this highly melodramatic scene is played out, you get the voice-of-God overlay narration coming in to tell you that, “No, in fact, this representation is highly unlikely. Here is what these slaves’ lives were more likely to have been like.” And then you get a sort of a historical revisionist view, which in fact refutes many of the images and ideas from the first scene. The film continues in this manner, thoroughly picking apart the original abolitionist novel, which we are told was recieved with much approval by the abolitionist “nobility” of Cuba.
Giral’s films unfortunately aren’t all readily available on home video; I looked. So, this may be your only chance to see this particular film of his, if you’re available to do so tonight.
I couldn’t find a trailer, but did see bits and pieces of the film on YouTube. I embedded one of them at the bottom of this post (it’s not subtitled however).
Download the full film festival schedule HERE if you haven’t already.