He holds the microphone pressed to his mouth and his dreadlocks swing restlessly across his back. Raudel Collazo is on stage: sweating, singing, talking, the whole time a chorus of applause joining the music. After the concert he returns to his house in Guines, to the narrow broken sidewalk along which he walks his daughter to school, to his mother with the white wrap around her head. The documentary Despertar (Awakening), directed by Anthony Bubaire and Ricardo Figueredo, explores the man who gives his body over to banned music. On the screen, it exposes the concerns that he voices in the lyrics of el Escuadron Patriota — the Patriot Squadron. Filling out this exploration, the camera also captures the everyday family and personal images that have been narrated in his songs.
Raudel, who in the well-known song “Decadence” put to music the anxieties of many Cubans, is now the star of this black-and-white film. A work that was censored at the most recent Young Filmmakers Exhibition, sponsored by the Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). The incident led to the resignation of the prominent filmmaker Fernando Perez, who presided over the event and who had tried to avoid other attempts at censorship. For 12 years, this independent audiovisual space has featured several creations addressing cultural, social and political issues that are taboo in Cuba. Thus, what happened at the beginning of April was a serious setback for the hotbed of daring it had become.
For foreign viewers it will be hard to detect, over its 45 minutes, the reason for demonizing this documentary. On the screen we see man who talks, loves, opines; someone who touches on themes like racism, the state of public health, or the physical condition of his home… There are no calls for social violence nor messages of hate; nor are there incitements to popular revolt. There, lying on a bed or eating with a friend, we see only an individual who has found, in music, a way of civic expression and, in the choruses of his songs, a way to reclaim the rights stripped from him. The censors, however, realize the “danger” posed by telling the Cuban public to wake up as citizens, of showing them the cry that is launched, when one emerges from silence.
* Next Friday, April 27 at 8 pm, there will be a premiere of the documentary Despertar, at Estado de SATS, Calle 1ra no. And 4606 between 46 and 60, Playa. Last Saturday’s projection was postponed because of difficulties with the weather.