Tags: 'Nobody | Listened' | Human | Rights | Abuses | Cuba

'Nobody Listened' to Human Rights Abuses in Cuba

Monday, 03 April 2006 12:00 AM

A documentary made by Nestor Almendros and Jorge Ulla, entitled "Nobody Listened," touches on the extent of human rights abuses in Cuba. The film is inspired by the book "Against all Hope," which describes the experiences that author Armando Valladares and others went through as prisoners in Cuba. "Nobody Listened" recounts experiences of priests, civilians and a former comrade of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

It is easy to see why the film is censored in Cuba. Since Castro first formed his government 47 years ago, thousands of political prisoners have been accused of committing crimes. What are considered crimes include being part of organizations defending human rights, sedition or possessing counter-revolutionary or non-authorized materials. If a person has been arrested previously, and is considered politically active, Castro will find any pretext to harass or imprison that person, according to Valladares.

Castro censors people's freedom of expression by arbitrarily banning any materials (book, film, or article) he feels threatens his government principles, such as any declaration of human rights or a book written by a Cuban exile, and labels these works as "counter-revolutionary."

"Nobody Listened" also covers the contrast of what Castro and his comrades are saying is happening in Cuba and what is really going on through the everyday experiences of many Cuban citizens. The film seeks the response of the Cuban government regarding these issues, and not surprisingly, uncovers that the government feels exiles are traitors, as are human rights advocates.

It seems the documentary is not receiving the warm welcome it was thought that it would in the United States. Agustin Blazquez, a filmmaker and friend of Almendros, was interviewed and provided great insight through an article entitled " Branded by Paradise and Maligned by Exile," which appeared in "Tyrant Aficionado" in 1999. For years, intellectual Cuban exiles residing in the United States have been discriminated against by the people who control the media and the ones in charge of promoting and distributing artists, filmmakers and writers' works, Blazquez says.

As an example, "Nobody Listened" was rejected in 1988 by the New York Film Festival. The same festival rejected "Bitter Sugar" (Leon Ichazo) and "This is Cuba" (Chris Hume), films that also contain controversial information about Castro's regime. This trend did not go unnoticed as Cuban-American filmmakers protested against this decision, and among these protesters was Jorge Ulla.

PBS initially would not show the documentary, but in 1990 finally agreed to broadcast it. However, the stations' producers cut out about an hour of the two-hour film. Furthermore, immediately after it ended, PBS aired a documentary entitled "The Uncompromising Revolution" by Saul Landau. This, according to Blázquez, was something that Ulla and Almendros considered an absolute offence to their work. They saw Landau's work as being pro-Castro.

Only when documentaries such as "Nobody Listened" can be shown in their entirety will the issues on both sides be presented. That the material is controversial and revealing is exactly why it should be aired. Only then will the oppressed living in unspeakable conditions in Cuba be heard.

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A documentary made by Nestor Almendros and Jorge Ulla, entitled "Nobody Listened," touches on the extent of human rights abuses in Cuba. The film is inspired by the book "Against all Hope," which describes the experiences that author Armando Valladares and others went...
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2006-00-03
Monday, 03 April 2006 12:00 AM
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