Cuba si! (Cuba, Yes!)
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion Religious
Medium: Film Video
Artist: Chris Marker (b. 1921 - )
Confronting Bodies: The Catholic Church; the French Commission de controle des films cinematographiques
Dates of Action: 1961
Description of Artwork: Marker's film titled, Cuba si! (Cuba, Yes!) was shot in 1960 and early 1961, during and after the celebration of the second anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The film is divided in two parts: the first shows Marker as a tourist-like figure who is traveling through Cuba, experiencing everyday life in the country; the second part presents an unedited look at Cuban president Fidel Castro. In the film, Castro allows Marker rare access into communist Cuba; and, in turn, Marker grants Castro the opportunity to present himself as he would like to be seen by allowing him to put his own case without editorial interference. The film is controversial for many reasons: not only does Marker provide Castro with an unprecedented opportunity to present an unbiased depiction of himself to the Western world, the film also discredits the Catholic Church's claim that Castro is a dictator by showing footage of the Spanish dictator Franciso Franco surrounded by cardinals. And, to add further to the controversial nature of the film, in a post-script Marker celebrates the defeat of the US-backed invaders by Cuban forces at the Bay of Pigs on April 15, 1961.
The Incident: Marker's film Cuba si! was called into question due to its anti-American/anti-Western message, its attack on the Catholic Church, and the free public forum it provided communist Cuba with. As a result of the film's controversial nature, on July 31, 1961 the French Commission de controle des films cinematographiques agreed to ban the film abroad as well as in France.
Results of Incident: Marker responded to the French Commission's ruling by arranging film screenings for foreign journalists and critics, in and around Paris. He also published the first of his volumes of Commentaries, which includes texts of the commentary accompanying Cuba si!, a selection of stills, texts of the narrative tracks of his six earlier documentaries, and copies of his correspondence with the Ministry of Information pertaining to bans on his films. The screenings Marker arranged along with illegal prints caused the film to be seen and reviewed in Germany, Scandinavia, and Britain; but it has never been publicly screened in the US.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.