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Forums  >  Politics  >  Why Cuba?
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at 22:53, 7 Aug 2005
Posts: 0
Why Cuba?
Dear Sally,

Congratulations on what I think is an extraordinary film, so needed in these despairing times. I saw you and Joan talk about the film at the Toronto Film Festival last September and felt honoured to be there. After seeing your film, I too believed that "Yes" is the most beautiful word in the English language.

It might be because I couldn't catch all of the verse in that first viewing, but it seemed to me that Cuba - as the site of His and Her reconciliation - was being posited as an unproblematic alternative to the extremism of the East and West. A place where sultry music and the long-faded promise of socialism provided a kind of resting place for the two lovers. Perhaps you meant it as a temporary refuge, but I found it slightly ironic that you chose Cuba, a place where difference (at least political, sexual) is not entirely respected by those in power. but perhaps Her dying great aunt had some critical words for Castro (and I couldn't understand her Irish accent???).

Why did you choose Cuba to reconcile the two lovers? Why not in the heart of the war zone instead?


at 17:41, 14 Aug 2005
Posts: 1
YES in Havana
Sally will answer your question shortly. In the meantime you may be interested in reading about her experiences in Cuba whilst at the Havana Film Festival with YES.
sally potter
at 03:50, 15 Aug 2005
Posts: 193
Good title
Here's the answer I gave the first time someone asked me this question, and which is included in the Q&A section of the published screenplay:

"Why Cuba?"- good title! I think it's a very character-driven moment in
the story. The auntie, in her dying reverie, is contemplating what she
believed in her life. In fact, all the characters are trying to figure out
what they believe; whether God exists or not, which of their dreams and
beliefs have fallen, and which have held good. And for the auntie, as she's
a radical and an atheist, Cuba represents the last outpost of the communist
dream: somewhere on earth where people are put before profit, where the
economic system is not based on greed but on a principle of equality.
Whatever its failures, however many problems and contradictions there are in
Cuba and elsewhere where Communism has been tried, for the auntie, it still
represents that dream. And in effect it is her instruction to her niece:
"Go there, go soon. Go before Castro dies, have a look."

It's also, in a way, the only place that these two lovers could finally
meet, somewhere other than their two cultures, somewhere at the end of
somewhere, this little island of disintegrating hope, where the buildings
and the music are so vibrant, so colourful, and so extraordinary.

at 14:57, 18 Feb 2006
Posts: 0
Optimism or Naivete?
>>But in a global situation where civil rights are daily increasingly eroded in the so-called democracies, and where religious fundamentalisms are clashing in deadly and ever more repressive ways, moral high-ground taken about rights abuses in Cuba seems hypocritical and the secular socialist dream looks appealing, at least to the visitor.<<

I was FULLY aligned with the optimism of your film, and enthralled by your selection of Havana for one of the key locations (as a socialist / American / only child of Cuban exiles), a beautiful, disheveled echo of a great dream. Then I read your blog and this forum thread, and now find myself compelled to comment on this greed vs. equality stuff and whether Cuba can actually be considered communist or not.

I mean, I 'get' why you picked Cuba - I see it as the balancing between the conservative muslim He and the deluded capitalist She, and you made your point beautifully about how honesty in communication can transcend politics and philosophy and create compatibility between people of irreconcilable cultures.

But the equality you seem to have perceived in Cuba must be purely a product of propaganda. I've never been, but I can't imagine (at least not from what relatives who still reside there have told me) that the inequality is so well-hidden as to go completely unnoticed to a filmmaker's eye? Auntie's perfectly fine dreaming her dream because she's old and has never personally witnessed the embodiment of her dream. But, that socialist dream remains appealing only to the visitor who is purely a tourist.

Your film is brilliant, complete and moving. My only issue is with the Cuba blog entries, which contain some of the delusions of a pre-auntie-enlightened She - surface observations not yet completely attuned to the latent honest communication.

Anyway, excuse my exercise in karping at such length over something so collateral as the blog posts. I worry that the source of karpage is local to Americans - Floridians - Cuban exiles and their progeny, perhaps. Still... rafts wash up on our hypocritical American shorelines with some regularity...

To other readers of this forum - who's been there and was injustice apparent? Or is this human rights abuse stuff mostly a product of republican anti-communist propaganda?

If Ms. Potter should read this - could you get somebody to release "The Tango Lesson" on DVD in the States, please? My worn, dog-eared paperback of the screenplay doesn't dance as gracefully as the film's protagonists do onscreen, and the streaming media on the website is mighty wee!
And perhaps a real blog-blog RE: whatever's on your plate for your next creative endeavor? They're relatively easy to run/maintain and I'm happy to set one up pro-bono, perhaps to mitigate for the retardation of what is essentially a fan-letter, disguised as a political criticism...
mad percolator
at 15:01, 18 Feb 2006
Posts: 5
yea... the above lengthy bit of business was posted by me... mad percolator.
sally potter
at 09:25, 21 Feb 2006
Posts: 193
I have not found true equality anywhere on my travels in different countries, and certainly not in the UK where I live most of the time. Equally, I have seen injustice everywhere, taking different forms; sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. My impressions of Cuba, as a film-making tourist, one foot in and one foot out, therefore, of one of its industries, (so not entirely superficial, but nonetheless the point of view of an outsider) were of a place with a unique configuration of struggles, an extraordinarily complex history, an impressive array of certain achievements (literacy and health-care, for example) and a mixed bag of unhappy contradictions: the well-known oppression of gays, suppression of dissident voices, racism, and other familiar horrors.
These impressions were tempered by listening to astonishing musicians, looking at beautiful (if crumbling) buildings and meeting many magnificent, intelligent, friendly and hard-working individuals. I plead absolutely guilty to a romantic wish that a socialist experiment would succeed, somewhere, somehow, with no injustice and total equality for every woman, man and child. I look for every shred of eveidence of that, anywhere i can find it, to counter the world prevailing view that such a vision is unrealistic.

Of course, in my script, the characters are not my mouth-pieces, they are themselves and I try to let them speak without my wretched interference, on the question of Cuba or anything else. However, I then spend many months honing their words to precision. By contrast, my blog pours out in an undisciplined fashion and gets at most a quick edit in the middle of the night in a hotelroom somewhere.

I hope you will forgive me therefore, for less artistry in my blog than my film. you may also have noticed that i have not posted a blog or indeed anything on this message board for a while. That is because I have been listening to some new characters whispering another story in my ear...and I have only eyes and ears for them, naturally, and am therefore being a hermit, more or less.

I am going to ask someone to provide an email address at Sony Classics for you and the other people who desire a Tango Lesson DVD, so that you can send a message to them directly.
I am sure they will eventually respond if enough people ask.

mad percolator
at 19:21, 22 Feb 2006
Posts: 5
It is precisely because of the inactivity on this site that I was banking on getting home from exams and un-posting my post from Sunday night, or at least modifying it to sound less prattish.
I guess we can coax no brain-dump what's in the works type site out of the hermit...
I loved 'yes' and eagerly anticipate the release of your next project (and perahps some bloggage therefrom).

Thanks for the response, and looking fwd to the Sony Classics 'Tango Lesson' info.
Brian Young
at 19:57, 23 Feb 2006
Posts: 28
differing interpretations
I was surprised at this interpretation of Sally Potter's Havana diary, and went back to read it again. No forgiveness is necessary.
I could not see any hint that Sally Potter was under any illusions about the conditions in Cuba. And I agree that the world needed, and needs, at least one successful germination of the dream. And that is precisely why the world's greatest power, the arch capitalist, the keeper of the rich, has used every trick during the past forty years to make sure it doesn't happen. Not even one little Caribbean country will be allowed to show that another system can work.
Cuba is on the hook. If not outright military invasion, then economic strangulation. An armada of ships with bulldozers and hotel builders is amassed in south Florida, ready to pounce.
I can't agree that HE was a conservative Muslim, or either a conservative or a Muslim. Where does that come from? And SHE a deluded capitalist? She might have been disillusioned about something in her life, but there was no questioning of the underlying economic structure of society.
The apparent inability, at times, to have a truly objective view (probably a flawed concept in itself)is found in all of us. If people want to practice the eyes wide open routine, then they should start in their own backyards.
People take their families to see the the Lincoln Monument in Washington, and stand teary eyed, whispering about how he freed the slaves. Emancipation in the south was part of a military plan to cripple that region. Lincoln personally believed that blacks were inferior to whites, and supported a movement to "repatriate" them to Africa. We can all be fooled by propaganda, and the inertia of what we learned in school. Constant vigilance- question everything!
Brian Young
mad percolator
at 21:18, 23 Feb 2006
Posts: 5
retraction with minor digressions.
I'd like to give a tiny shoutout in the name of 'the dream' for Bachelet and Chile. It's not out-and-out socialism with a capital 'S' but it might be a modified working form of the theory. I might even be able to make the same case for Chavez' Venezuela... maybe Bolivia, depending on whether the new guy ever changes out of that striped sweater...

As for 'deluded capitalist' and 'conservative Muslim' ... I thought that She's delusions were in her marriage and in this commitment to sustain a middle class life that really did nothing for her, and then, She went to Cuba and was freed of those delusions. Perhaps deluded was too strong a word.
With 'conservative' I don't think the adjective is too unexpected to use to describe with somebody very rooted in the tradition of their culture. Perhaps 'conservative' was too limited a word.

I was discussing this thread with a friend last night and he raised the obvious event of "Hurricane Katrina" in human rights abuses in a civilized country purporting to tell Cuba and the whole lot of buddng South American regimes where they can stuff their ideas. I'm just a shade touchy about Cuba because it is specifically obviously a dictatorship, and I know real Socialism the Lenin way calls for a period of totalitarianism to get the people in check after the revolution. Most true communist countries never made it out of the totalitarian phase. Cuba being the last of those countries in this hemisphere, and China still picking on its citizens in the other hemisphere. But, yes, my position in my original post is untenable. (And I also read "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and found it an enlightening read.)
Brian Young
at 08:08, 24 Feb 2006
Posts: 28
new seeds of freedom
I share your hope that the "dream" might have found fresh soil, and the election in Chile is something that I have dreamt about since their "9/11" in 1973. And the other aspiring buds of freedom. It is, perhaps, fortunate that the beast has its hands full in the middle east right now, or surely the CIA would have been all over this. I hope that these new seeds of change are allowed to live. I am sure that bush et al are having dreams of "regime change" dancing in their heads.
Yes, Cuba is a touchy subject, and the obvious nature of the castro dictatorship is disturbing, despite all the great achievement, accomplished under the greatest duress. I wonder how Cuban history would have formed if the beast had not had its heel on her neck these past forty years. We will never know.
mad percolator
at 19:29, 31 Jul 2006
Posts: 5
Current Events Update.
I (totally unexpectedly) passed the bar exam I was procrastinating studying for by writing my original post on this forum.
Castro has ceded his dictatorship to his brother.
I think I just saw a pig fly past my 2nd story window.

And still, no "Tango Lesson" available on DVD.
at 21:08, 9 Jan 2008
Posts: 1
Merci Sally
Excusez-moi de vous écrire en français, je comprends très bien l'anglais, mais j'ai encore du mal à l'écrire. Je suis Cubain et j'habite depuis peu à Montréal, je viens de voir un morceau de votre film sur ARTV, une chaîne d'ici, et j'ai été très touché du contenu du film, mais aussi de la partie "cubaine", elle reflète une vision de Cuba de beaucoup des gens en Occident qui aiment notre pays, et c'est vrai que chez nous il y a ce joie de vivre et cet esprit de lassitude...mais n'est pas moins vraie que les Cubains veulent rattraper le retard que cette condition "idyllique" nous a causé. Avec les injustices de l'Occident?, je ne crois pas, mais on ne peut pas continuer à être un paradis (pour les touristes) et un enfer pour les habitants, les choses doivent bouger, et surtout pour les nouvelles générations qui n'ont pas pu se réaliser, parce que depuis 49 ans la même génération est resté au pouvoir. En tout cas Sally, merci de votre film, vraiment tendre et touchant, une "rareté" dans ce monde fou...
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