YIDFF 2011 Islands / I Lands, NOW—Vista de Cuba
Cuba Sentimental
An Interview with Tanuma Sachiko (Director)

Cuba’s Face

Q: Why did you choose Cuba as a research site, and what sorts of things did you pay attention to there?

TS: Cultural anthropology began with the study of non-Western and non-modern places, so Cuba, which has Spanish cultural influence, is an unorthodox field site. I chose Cuba for my research because few people study it and because of the linguistic issues there, in addition to various other reasons. Cultural anthropology began to pay attention to Cuba just before the 1950s, but most of what has been written about the country fits the conveniences of the revolutionary regime, or assesses whether the Revolution was a good or bad thing. Cuba maintained socialism even after the Berlin Wall fell in the 1990s, losing a great amount of money and commodities in doing so. So they came to adopt capitalism from tourists and researchers. As a result, the local people began to feel income disparity, and you began to see scams with an act bordering on prostitution directed toward foreigners, called “jineterismo.” At that time, it became mainstream in the English-language academic literature to conclude that the Revolution had been a mistake. Researchers would focus on the darker side of the lower classes, such as the lives of youths that run against the spirit of the Revolution. But, when I actually tried living there, I realized it’s not all black-and-white. For example, jineterismo is often connected to a broader movement among Cubans to assist and feed their comrades who lack resources. The Revolution has entered into everyday speech, and there is no way to not speak of it. But I came to realize how important it is to focus on their view of human beings is, not only the political issues. This is why I wanted to film the people living their everyday lives in Cuba, people found everywhere, but are never cast light on.

Q: What differences did you feel between recording in text and recording in image?

TS: Unlike text, images are easy to share. They are quick and have impact. The history of ethnographic film is long, and is often thought of in terms of its boring, stereotype. However, those stereotypes are not accurate. For instance, Jean Rouch attempted to efface the border between fiction and non-fiction; his most famous such work is La pyramide humaine. It is probably because of his influence that I once focused on immigration but shifted my approach toward friendship. I have always been told that my prose is visual, and I discovered that I could better receive the responses I wanted through images, rather than text.

Q: The content of this film gets very personal. How did you end up filming people you were close to?

TS: The people I ended up filming were some of the many interviewees I had gathered in Cuba as sources for my dissertation. What makes them different from my other interviewees is that they were the group I asked to transcribe my interview tapes. While doing so they would hear many different stories, and would come and tell me their opinions about them. I included these opinions as source material, and was able to collect interesting data from them. However, I did not intend them in this film in the beginning. I worried about the well-being of my interviewees after they had migrated abroad, and re-reading their data was painful. I spoke with my academic supervisor later, and as a result they ended up becoming my research subjects. I had already known how interesting it is to film people close to you from attending this festival four years ago. So when I decided to work in images, that’s exactly what I did.

(Compiled by Katsumata Erika)

Interviewers: Katsumata Erika, Koshimizu Emi / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Chiba Minami / Video: Ichikawa Eri / 2011-10-12