Film tip - What does a mother of three children feel when her husband, the family's sole breadwinner, is jailed for twenty years? "No es fácil" it's not easy, as they say in Cuba, and you can hear it every day.
Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) is an association of wives, mothers and sisters of political prisoners locked by Fidel Castro's dictatorship quietly and with almost no media attention behind the bars at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Seventy five political activists were sentenced, most of them to more than 20 years in jail.
Berta, a husband, 20 years
The movie showing some of the leading members of the women's movement was shot secretly and in difficult conditions by the Bosnian-Czech document maker Ivana Miloševičová. The film was co-produced by the Czech humanitarian organization People in Need (Člověk v tísni).
Ms Miloševičová is using the techniques of "cinéma-vérité", or "film truth". Both faces and personalities of the female protagonists play an important part but it's up to the viewer to put things into a proper context, and there is no patronising voice of a "teacher-narator".
The stories of individual women protagonists are interrupted only by short concise captions, such as: Berta, her husband, jailed for 20 years. Ysel, her husband, jailed for 25 years. Belhiz, her brother, jailed for 25 years...
A raised eyebrow, shrugging shoulders, a simple gesture and, strikingly, plenty of laughter and joy: these are things you will remember from the movie. Many of the women bear their fate with a surprising optimism. No es fácil...
The secret agent is... a gardener
The conditions for shooting the movie were really "guerrilla" ones. It was necessary to meet the political prisoners' wives secretly and incognito.
One could not be sure who was observing you. A man selling fish outside your house could easily be a secret police agent and your neighbour next door behind a thin paper wall might be watching more than the newest Brazilian soap.
Shortages of basic groceries, of spare parts, power shortages are the problems that are not unique to people in Cuba: they also afflict poorer people in the surrounding countries of Latin America.
So it is the ubiquitous spying and necessity to consider every word while communicating with anybody outside your immediate and closest circle that the documentary presents as the most characteristic of the evils of the Cuban dictatorship.
Life in white
Rights to privacy are violated in Cuba in the same way rights to public activities are. The relatives of Ladies in White got their high prison sentences just for demanding a referendum on creating a civic society with free elections and freedom of press, speech and religion.
And the authorities also terrorize the Ladies in White. Their children are discriminated against, they have no access to social advantages, they constantly have to deal with problems at their workplace, their neighbours attack them; the onslaught is organized by the Committees for Protection of the Revolution (CDR).
The authors of the movie had a first hand experience of this. During the shooting of a regular Sunday meeting of the Ladies in White at a Roman Catholic Mass in Havana, the filmmakers were arrested and then expelled from the country.
Screening: 08.03.2008 at 8 pm at Municipal Library (Městská knihovna) cinema venue; a discussion with guests will follow