Three Hispanic Studies majors teamed up to translate an essay by Cuban filmmaker Carlos Rodríguez. Nathaniel Clemens (’17), Kyle McQuillan (’17) and Morgan Sehdev (’17) will have their work published in the forthcoming book, The Cinema of Cuba: Contemporary Film and the Legacy of Revolution, co-edited by Professor Ann Marie Stock. This faculty-research project was an outgrowth of the Cuba-Culture-Curate course co-taught by Stock with Troy Davis and Jennie Davy of W&M Libraries.
These three seniors were among the 16 students who traveled to eastern Cuba during spring break 2016. Their mission was to enhance their study of Cuban culture and cinema. They went “on location” in the Sierra Maestra mountains and elsewhere in rural Cuba. They traveled up winding narrow roads, high into the mountains, where they encountered their destination: the community media organization, Televisión Serrana. “We, as a class, were asked to conjure up the images that come to mind when we think of Cuba – old cars, cigars, rum, art, the Cuban flag, santería… (to name a few). But we also listed the mountains, the Sierra Maestras, once home to the Revolution, and now home to this revolutionary project of TVS,” commented Sehdev. “I felt that I was in Cuba the moment I stepped off the plane, but I felt that I was in the real Cuba, the heart of Cuba, when I laid eyes on the breathtaking and pristine Sierra Maestras. The mountains of el Oriente were filled with beautiful places, beautiful people, and beautiful projects, thanks to TVS.”
The students connected with members of the local community as well as with film students, regional leaders, and filmmakers. “Getting the opportunity to learn from people like Jorge Luis Barber, Carlos Rodriguez, and the filmmakers at TVS was one of the most impactful parts of the trip. It is so special and unique to get see the country and culture through the eyes of people that make a living documenting it. We not only made connections in Cuba, we made real friends that allowed us to truly connect with the island,” said McQuillan. “Leaving Cuba at the end of the trip was really difficult for all of us, primarily because it meant leaving Jorge Luis and Carlos, but we have all been able to keep in touch and maintain the connections we made.” Carlos Rodríguez, a longtime collaborator with Stock and W&M Libraries, was pleased to be invited to contribute an essay to the volume, and even more enthusiastic to have his work translated into English by these three students. “Thanks to Morgan, Kyle and Nattie, and the ongoing efforts of Ana María, our work at TVS is gaining greater visibility,” noted Rodríguez. “This really matters to us!”
Following this Study Away experience, made possible by generous support from the Philpott-Perez Endowment, Reilly Funds, Charles Center, and Reves Center, Workshop participants shared their discoveries. They curated an exhibit of film posters in Swem Library’s Botetourt Gallery, they created two videos capturing highlights of the experience, and they carried out an art project with local elementary students. “Sharing our research and experience back on William & Mary’s campus was one of the most meaningful parts of the study,” noted Clemens. “To learn about Cuba through film, through the lens of Cubans themselves, offers an important contribution to the conversation about the island. By bringing these artists and their work to our campus, we hope to help amplify these voices and share their authentic stories.”
The book is due out from I.B.Taurus (U.K.) in summer 2017.