Thursday, December 15, 2011
Lucia is a film about three different stages in Cuba’s history, told through the experiences of three women named Lucia in each time period. The first is situated in 1895 when Cuba was trying to gain independence from Spain – this Lucia is aristocratic and tied to the concerns of her bourgeoisie family. She falls in love with a Spanish soldier, in spite of her ties to the Cuban cause for independence. The second Lucia lives in 1933 when there was a failed attempt on the part of a popular resistance movement to overthrow dictator Geraldo Machado. She falls in love with a man in the resistance movement, who is soon to be murdered. The last Lucia is a working-class woman who lives during the 1960s, in the wake of the communist revolution. She lives with an extremely misogynist man who will not let her out of the house.
Like Memorias, Lucia represents the films of the revolutionary period. However, it engages on a more committed level to the issue of history. The film literally features the trajectory of Cuba’s history, and grounds it very stably to women during these historical periods. Nevertheless, Humberto Solas, the filmmaker, said about the film: “Lucia is not a film about women; it’s a film about society. But within that society, I chose the most vulnerable character, the one who is most transcendentally affected at any given moment by contradictions and change.” As such, the lead women in all three segments of the film are only segments of the larger fabric of society – they either serve or betray the revolutionary fervor of a particular historical moment. This is why there is such an emphasis on the love plots of the episodes. The story is primarily about Cuba, and it is hard to see the potential liberation of women within the rigid structures of revolution. The “woman question” remains marginal and unanswered at the end of the film. While Solas may be actively acknowledging that the revolution needs a lot of help, his attempt at the very end to bring women to a space of liberation by having the last Lucia learn to read and write is not sufficient. After all, the last Lucia only learns to read and write because of Castro’s literacy campaign. The literacy campaign is indicative of the revolution’s partial progress that Cuba has in mind for its entire population. Here, the question of agency is most present. Is 1960s Lucia the one who has the most agency? Is this agency not endowed to her through the very system that oppresses her? Women seem to exist only in reference to the revolution, and never on their own. For this reason, Lucia leaves many questions to be answered, even though the filmmaker is one of the very few to even pose the question of marginalized citizens in Cuba’s populace. Next to Memorias, it stands as a more valiant confrontation with the issues left behind by nationalist Latin American movements.