“Maestra” which means teacher in Spanish, is a documentary film that gives a face and a voice to the 250,000 young volunteers that were part of the massive national literacy campaign in Cuba in 1961. Of that number, 100,000 were under the age of 18 and over half were women. 700,000 men and women learned how to read and write as a result.
Catherine Murphy grew up listening to the mystical, magical stories of her grandmother’s childhood in Havana. Many of the tales were of the family’s exile and what it was like to leave their homes and lives behind during the Cuban Revolution. It wasn’t until after visiting Cuba several times that the filmmaker felt there was more to her family history and began to explore what took place after the revolution. This included a look at how the people that decided to stay behind, began to rebuild a nation.
This brilliant portrayal is captured through interviews with eight women in their homes in Havana. The first, a friend named Daysi Veitia, was the inspiration for this film. When the filmmaker got word that Daysi was terminally ill, she hurried the process, eventually obtaining permission from the Obama Treasury Department to film in Cuba for a year and a half.
That first interview led to a second and a third and the miracle of this film unfolded. Catherine describes this experience as “unearthing a treasure.” All of the women interviewed, passionately expressed that this was the most important experience of their lives and that it changed how they viewed themselves as women. Filming in Cuba, as opposed to the US, was a spontaneous adventure that at times had the director and crew working during blackouts or piled into a ’57 Chevy.
Catherine Murphy is a San Francisco-based filmmaker who has spent much of the last 20 years working in Latin America. She lived and worked in Cuba in the 1990’s, earning a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Havana. Currently, Murphy is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and founder/director of The Literacy Project.
The Literacy Project is a non-profit multi-media project devoted to the topic of adult literacy in the Americas, founded by Murphy in response to the magnitude of adult illiteracy in North and South America. Since 2003, The Literacy Project has focused on researching and recording oral histories of volunteer teachers from the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign, to date the most ambitious and successful national effort to eradicate illiteracy. This phase of The Literacy Project has culminated in the production of “Maestra.”
Don’t miss an opportunity to see this moving 33 min. documentary at LA Femme Film Festival in Hollywood. This festival is the largest women’s film festival in the US, created to serve as a platform for women filmmakers. This year’s films will feature Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis.
When: Saturday October 13th 12pm noon
Where: La Femme Film Festival Davidson/Valentini Theatre, 1125 N McCadden Place, Hollywood, CA 90038