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Layla Muchnik-Benali, Film/Video Curatorial Assistant, and Sylke Krell, Video Producer
Sep 07, 2022
Following Film/Video Curatorial Assistant Layla Muchnik-Benali's interview with Susan Lord, the professor who's spearheaded restoration work on the films of Afro-Cuban artist Sara Gómez that screen this month at the Wex, we have a conversation with two passionate, highly knowledgeable admirers of the filmmaker's work.
Ruun Nuur is a Columbus-based independent cinematic practitioner who produced the Field of Vision-commissioned documentary short, They Won't Call It Murder, which screened as part of the 2021 Unorthodocs Festival. She is also cofounder of NO EVIL EYE CINEMA, a nomadic microcinema focused on original film programming and accessible educational offerings.
Yasmina Price is a writer, programmer, and PhD student in the departments of African American Studies and Film And Media Studies at Yale University. She focuses on anticolonial cinema from the Global South and the work of visual artists across the African continent and diaspora, with a particular interest in the experimental work of women filmmakers. Her writing has appeared recently in Art in America, Aperture, Film Quarterly, Criterion's Current, and Hyperallergic.
In their Zoom conversation, Nuur and Price reflect on their respective introductions to Gómez's work, how the filmmaker worked to represent the reality of life in Cuba post-revolution, and how her films were made to be seen by an audience beyond the arthouse. Muchnik-Benali begins with an introduction. The complete transcript is below.
Crónica de mi familia
Layla Muchnik-Benali: Hi, my name is Layla Muchnik-Benali and I use she and they pronouns. I'm a biracial person with longish, dark brown, wavy hair, medium tone skin, and I'm wearing a white T-shirt. I'm a curatorial assistant at the Wexner Center for the Arts. And I'm so excited to introduce both Ruun Nuur and Yasmina Price.
Ruun Nuur is an independent cinematic practitioner based in Columbus, Ohio with a hyper focus on African diasporic and Muslim narratives. She's the producer of the Field of Vision commissioned documentary short, They Won't Call It Murder, and co-founder of NO EVIL EYE CINEMA, a nomadic microcinema focused on original film programming and accessible educational offerings. She's currently working on building a chronological timeline of films made in Somalia during the 20th century.
Yasmina Price is a writer, programmer, and PhD student in the departments of African American Studies and Film And Media Studies at Yale University. She focuses on anticolonial cinema from the Global South and the work of visual artists across the African continent and diaspora, with a particular interest in the experimental work of women filmmakers. Recent writing has appeared in Art in America, Aperture, Film Quarterly, Criterion's Current, and Hyperallergic.
Ruun and Yasmina, thanks so much for being here to discuss the films of Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez, one of the most exciting filmmakers working in the wake of the Cuban revolution in the '60s and '70s. The Wexner Center is showing two nights of Gómez's work. On September 6th, we'll be showing her only feature length film, titled De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another), which was completed after her untimely death. And on September 13th, we'll be showing a selection of her short documentary films, which take on themes of labor, reproductive health, Gómez's own family story and the stories of other Black Cubans living in post-revolutionary Cuba, especially Black women. The screening of shorts will be co-presented with the OSU Student Group Cinéseries. So now I'm really excited to hand it over to Yasmina and Ruun. Thank you both so much for being here, it's really an honor, and a pleasure to be listening to you both.
Ruun Nuur: Hi, everybody, like Layla said, my name is Ruun. I'm a Black woman wearing a checkered yellow head scarf and also wearing a black denim jacket.
Yasmina Price: Oh, hi, I'm Yasmina Price. I'm a Black woman with my hair out, wearing a gray tank top and I use she/her pronouns.
Ruun Nuur: Yes, also, likewise, I use she/her pronouns since it's not on here. Just to kick it off, I think the best place to always start conversations around someone so prolific is, well, where did you first discover Sara Gómez? What was your first introduction to her work?
Yasmina Price: Absolutely, it was a really terrible version of De Cierta Manera on YouTube, which while I can see that there's a shame to that being the entry point to the extent that the version on YouTube was not one which honors how beautiful the film has looked once it's been restored. But I think that the more I've learned about her cinema, the more I think that actually, just because of the political potency, the dynamism of her filmmaking, it's something that so exceeds not a great print and not a pristine version, that I think even that entry point didn't actually take away from how extraordinary her work is and the impact that it had for me in that first encounter. And I'd be curious to know if you also watched that YouTube version first.
Ruun Nuur: Yes, so actually the first time I discovered her, it's actually funny when I'm thinking of this question. It was actually, it was a photo of her. I remember this was years ago now when I was first editing SVLLY, which is this feminist film journal that I created in my bedroom right here. And I must have been 20 or so. And I was just getting, or at least pushing the boundaries of radical politics, learning, reading Baldwin, reading Sontag. And for the first time being like, what is this? I've never heard of any of these people or these ideas. And then getting into more of these filmmakers on the margins and just running across this photo of Sara Gómez. And she just looks so young, this short Afro, she looks adorable, truly such a young woman, must have been somewhere around my age, honestly, at that time, and holding this giant camera. And I was like, who is this? And I didn't know reverse Google Image at the time, I should have probably done that, that would've helped me. But I was kind of obsessed with this photo. And I remember putting it in a collage with other filmmakers, other women filmmakers, who I knew. And in the back of my head, I was like, I should probably figure out who this lady is, 'cause I dunno who this is. And then I think I must have showed it to someone, I asked, do you know who this woman is? Finding out it was Sara Gómez. And then same thing, what do you do when you find someone like that? You go on YouTube, type in the film title, you get that link, right, watched it. And I felt the exact same way you did, of how that poignancy far beyond that 480 resolution, or maybe it was even less than that, whatever that rip is from 10 years ago on YouTube, but it affected me so much. And it was in this legacy of other films that I was watching at that period of my life, where film and politics, everything was just radically shifting within me, how I was seeing the world. And Sara Gómez was a part of that radical restructure of how I was consuming cinema and what films could be.
Yasmina Price: Absolutely.
Ruun Nuur: Which is to me, at this point in my life is the most, it's the most exhilarating feeling when I watch something. And I'm just like, you can do that? Oh, I didn't even know that was possible, I've never seen that before. So she was a part of that initial, that question that I was asking myself at that time, oh, wait, what, you can do this? Suddenly, it's a fiction film, and then all of a sudden there's like these inserts of documentary and I've never experienced anything like that before. And it was jarring, but in the best way.
Yasmina Price: Yeah, yeah. I think honestly for me, the filmmaker that is probably Sarah Maldoror who I think is, they are such a coherent pair of filmmakers in a lot of ways. And I love that entry point of the photograph of Sara Gómez. And what I immediately thought of when you said that was, I know exactly the photo you mean. And I also have seen it misattributed and tagged as being Sarah Maldoror. Which I think is also really telling, because on the one hand, we're looking at a tradition of guerrilla, militant, revolutionary filmmaking, coming out of the Global South in the '60s and '70s, which was questioning so much about empire, colonialism, capitalism, all these systems of oppression. And I think in many of those films, especially the ones that come from African filmmakers, anti-blackness and race are handled, but because there were so few women filmmakers, they're lacking already, and it's sort of extraordinary that we both have so few of them who were working at that time, but that they'll even get conflated in that way, where they're not allowed to even be honored in their specificity.
And a commonality that I think about a lot between them too, is that each of them only made one fictional feature film, but had a prolific career of making documentaries. Sara Gómez made 19, Sarah Maldoror made 40-something, but they both always get reduced to this one feature film, which is not to say that they're not extraordinary pieces of cinema. And I think Gómez is especially, was a really, really rare insight into the aftermath of the revolution from a perspective that took race and gender as seriously as it did questions of class. But that film has been seen and revisited over and over and over again. Whereas the shorts have both been under-seen, under-studied, but part of that is also 'cause they haven't really circulated. Which is why I know that I was thrilled to be invited both to be in conversation with you, which is always a pleasure, but also to be able to see these short films. Which honestly, I think I recognized three out of the four titles, but had never seen any of them, had you?
Ruun Nuur: I hadn't seen it. I think what I went back to see was it even accessible for me, it was kind of like the same rip, the same very bad resolution on YouTube. I don't even know if there's English subtitles so I could have watched it visually, but understanding the context and the dialogue, I still would not have known what was happening. So this, yeah, was same thing where I was very excited to get the invitation from Layla and be in conversation with you, as always.
But watching the restored shorts was restorative in itself. Because yeah, this is a filmmaker that we both have some kind of intimate knowledge of or respect for. And then watching these shorts, which is where really the experience happens. when you watch someone's short and then you see where their eventual feature is, you see so many of the themes come out. I mean her emphasis on music actually is something I really love and reading more about her. And I think this is a piece of information I just glossed over. But she had a lot of family members who are part of the National Harmonic or orchestra. She studied piano. I feel like I probably did read that a long time ago, but watching the shorts I got that. I was like, there's such an emphasis on music throughout everything, horns, piano, whatever the case may be. And it was so beautifully done too, her scores. I actually feel like it needs to be talked about more. But the shorts were just absolutely stunning. So shout out to Vulnerable Media Lab for doing that work seriously.
Yasmina Price: Yeah, truly crucial. And I also found, because you brought up music, I think something that I find remarkable formally, I think honestly, especially in the shorts, and maybe more than anywhere in "Iré a Santiago," is also her attentiveness to movement. Because there's so many scenes of bodies and collective movements in these moments of celebration driven by pleasure and enjoyment and not only labor. Although obviously she's someone who is very attentive to the work that the revolution was doing in terms of labor, class antagonisms, and so on. But there's something just so incredibly sensuous about how she captures those shots during those musical performances, the dancing outdoors. and something I was really struck by was also by her proximity to what is happening. It really gives a sense of immersive participation, which I think is really... And I like that you said that the word, intimacy too, I think there is something again, remarkable in the fact that she's able to create both this sense of intimacy and proximity, but then also has, 'cause as you said, she trained in music, but she also trained in ethnology. So she also has this sort of ethnographic, anthropological diagnostic, investigative approach. But one which is, I think the exact antidote to how those documentary practices initially came into being. Which is to say by the colonial world, and used to both categorize, stabilize, control, contain, oppress the so-called Other.
Ruun Nuur: You said it beautifully, Yasmina. This is why I love talking to you truly. It was the proximity to, I don't even wanna say subjects, it was just locals. Where the camera was going, it was so free flowing. It kind of is, I don't wanna say jarring, but it is kind of shocking where she's going and how people are OK with it as well. Maybe 'cause they can see her and be like, OK, this is someone who maybe we know or she looks like us, so there is no question, even though she does have the ethnographic background. There isn't this sense of extraction at all in the images or how she was moving in this space itself. And the musical sections of that short in particular. And also we talked about this really briefly, but it felt like a travelogue, it really felt like this, it felt like a local or someone who is from there who's making this little short film about their town and immersive is, yeah, it is the word of the day when it comes to her.
I mean it was just, it's just so beautifully done, all of the shorts are, but that one in particular, and how there is references to that to this day. I don't think that the Travel Channel would ever give her that props. But watching. I was like, oh, I've never seen something like that in that section of the world, in Cuba, at that period of time, by that type of filmmaker, a Black Cuban woman, making something like this. And it wasn't like a, oh these are the foods to try, you know what I mean? If you are a foreigner and you were to enter into this land, this is how you should navigate it, it was very much like a love letter. And so much of her work is. I always feel like this sense of love and intimacy, even though it's not explicit, she's not saying it so much, but it is sort of implicit at least, that's the way I'm reading it.
Yasmina Price: I completely 100 percent agree. And I really appreciate you pointing to her positionality in terms of what she's filming and that she is an Afro-Cubana, she is actually not an outsider, but with those sort of tours of these different cities like Santiago and so on, there is also this sort of sense of a real curiosity 'cause she grew up in Havana. So that's also not her most familiar place.
But what I also really appreciate with pointing to that, what I would almost say a kind of participant observer position, which is where I also see her as being a similar figure to Zora Neale Hurston who was a Black woman doing that sort of documentary work. But through doing it sort of undoing some of the patriarchal, the white supremacist, all the norms that were attached to that. Which I think is also really important in terms of her perspective as a political filmmaker and specifically as someone offering a celebration and also a critique of the revolution. 'Cause I think the problem with some of the Cuban cinema, which was made by white filmmakers who were mostly men also, is that they maybe embodied a little bit too easily, what the revolution wanted to say it had accomplished, but before it was actually able to do it. And I think that position of both she is unquestionably a revolutionary, she was happy for the revolution.
She, I think offered really important insights into all of the extraordinary changes that it provoked in Cuba. But because of her position, but I think also just because of her own nuanced, elastic, really astute political thinking, she's also able to trouble that and to show how, for example, race and gender, were not necessarily being integrated into those changes as much as they should have been. But also that process would take a lot more time. And I think for that, Mi Aporte is obviously an extraordinary documentation of what it was like for women during the revolution, who were contending with things like needing to figure out childcare. A lot of them really enthusiastically wanting to enter the workforce, but not always being offered the structures that they needed. And my understanding is that the FMC, which was a Federation of Cuban Women, and there's a section in that film where one of them, and I think it is a little telling that it is a white woman who's part of the FMC, who's speaking to this Black mother. And I think both hearing her concerns about, 'cause this Black mother is her head of household, she has several children, she can't just leave them and go to work. And this woman with the FMC both hears her, but is also a little bit dismissive, and Sara Gómez shows that. And then there's obviously the incredible, which I would love to hear what you thought seeing this for the first time, when the end of that film ends up being a sort of spectator response inside of the film, and how there's this sort of nested structure, where you get to watch the film and then you get to see how it was received by Cuban women at the time.
Ruun Nuur: Damn, I'm trying to respond to everything and make my own point, but yeah, that was again, I keep using the word, jarring, but in the most beautiful way, in a heartfelt way where it was so meta, I couldn't believe it, honestly. It reminded me, I think the first time I ever saw something like that, and this is a total sidebar, was watching Spice World as a little kid. And all of a sudden all the Spice Girls are right in front of you. They're like, "hey you in that dress!" And you're like, "oh me?" You know what I mean. I didn't know you can do that. And then all of a sudden I'm seeing it here, but in a much different context. It's so cool to actually give them, put the, not the burden, but give them the onus of speaking to what the film was actually saying. That was amazing. And then to include that, it wasn't on the cutting room floor. And then also speaking of what you're saying about the way that she analyzed race and gender and class, and it wasn't this sectioned off thing, it was a mutateable, ever-evolving, metabolizing identity within so many different people.
What was interesting, just learning more about her, is I think we have this idea of revolutionary movements or socialist countries, and it's almost like this utopia, which we all know that's not the case at all. And when she was working and making these movies in revolutionary Cuba in the '60s and '70s. Even though though they had this obviously incredibly radical idea in terms of class consciousness, there wasn't that same perspective when it came to race in particular. And I was reading more about her was that while she was one of the filmmakers within the Cuban Film Institute, there was kind of like this, I don't know if it was a written down explicit rule, but when they talked about race, they didn't want to promote racial inequalities as an issue that was happening within Cuba because that would be a rupture within the revolutionary politic of that nation. And any type of rupture will create cracks in the facade, which will then in turn, be easy to invade, annihilate or rupture within the nation itself. And so it was contained, racial inequality was a contained sector within Cuba.
When it came to gender, it wasn't so much the case, they were actually invested in addressing inequalities within gender. But with her in particular, what they did with filmmakers was you can talk about race, but something in the past. You could talk about the afterlife of slavery. You see that in her films too, you see the remnants of slavery, whether it's in artifacts or talking about it with her, the one short film, Chronicle of My Life, which again, talks about something that was so ahead of its time, it's a diary, literally, it was a visual diary of her family. But I love that you talked about that particular scene in Mi Aporte because that is literally, you can see it almost extracted and placed into One Way or Another, where all of a sudden you have Yolanda talking, who is this white woman, basically talking to, and she's a school teacher, she's speaking to the Black and brown mothers of her school children. And it's that same dichotomy. It's the same thing that's happening. So she has her perspective, they have their own. There's tension brewing. You see it in this fiction film, you see it in the short film. And what you see is this white woman is not understanding what they're saying, right? She's bringing about racial inequality, she's putting on the surface, it's in the film, It's very explicitly in the film. But because of censorship, because of the way that you couldn't actually make a direct reference to racism in that way, it was very implicit too, the way she went about it, you have to be able to read the frame.
She went about addressing racism in casting and the way that she framed her image and the way of who she was, the essence, the aesthetic, and text of being a filmmaker, which is just, I think it's truly extraordinary. She could have taken the cheap route, she could have done the shortcuts, but she never did. And we're all better for it, honestly, as viewers. And personally, as a viewer and as a filmmaker myself, I've always enjoyed cinema and filmmakers who are working under censorship in some way. Or maybe I don't wanna say censorship in a explicit way here with Sara, but under confinement. I love that type of cinema 'cause so much can happen. If we're saying that film is a marriage between sound and image and what we're doing, we're kind of like at the altar, every time you watch a movie, is it the altar? Is that what people do?
Yasmina Price: Yeah.
Ruun Nuur: But when you're there, you're watching a film, you're really watching this marriage between these two technical aspects. She did it so well, you can only find it when a filmmaker is under those confinements because you have to. When you have all the money in the world, there is really nothing holding you back, you can do everything. But she was stunning. And I didn't realize about her until very recently, honestly. I thought she was just doing it under a different pretext. But knowing that these were the confinements of Cuban filmmakers at the time, and she was the first Black woman, let's make that very explicit, and very young. I don't think we even highlighted that, but truly I don't wanna infantilize her and say a child, but someone who was in their late twenties and passed away in early thirties, to be able to be such a genius at that age, have all that work as well, which is why it's so important to talk about these short films. Because you're building your experience and it's not a calling card. It's more of, again, these love letters to a town, to a people, to her family. So I talked a little bit too long on that.
Yasmina Price: No, but you were just dropping gold. What you said about, or I think it's a specific word you use in that scene in De Cierta Manera, which is almost repeated in Mi Aporte which I'd not clocked at all, but you're so right. It's almost an exact repetition, is the word you did use, tension, which is also something that I think is just beyond valuable with her cinema as well. Is that it is a cinema of constant tension, constant irressolvability, constant dialectic. She's never giving you a stable, closed, singular narrative. Which I think is also really, again, important in terms of the sort of political work she was doing with her films. Which were just screening questions and concerns and contradictions and opinions and polemics and reminiscence and memory and all of these things and just screening them in these aesthetically sharp, attuned films, but never letting them settle into any singular thing. Which I think is also something that comes out, especially in Mi Aporte and that sort of chorus of women's voices who are also giving testimonies, I think basically about their experience in post revolutionary Cuba. And even that film, 'cause the title means "my contribution," which was a reference to, I believe the Zafra programs of everyone having as much agricultural contribution as they could. So it's already a little cheeky that she's saying my contribution, but hers is a film.
But even that occasion where it's my contribution, she makes that a sort of platform for many women's voices. So even there she's giving you this poly-vocal object, it's not at all about her singular perspective, but about putting all of these different perspectives into relation with each other. Which I think is just an incredibly sensitive, politically robust, every hyperbolic adjective, approach.
Ruun Nuur: You're so right about, she never offers an explicit resolution in any of it, which I love, it's not clean cut, it's not wrapped in a bow, it's real life. And her movies are that, it's again, something that I deeply appreciate. As a viewer it's kind of like, well, what do you think? And everyone has a different point of view or opinion, but at least she's didactic in the way that she, I think obviously she's including information and data, but didactic in just again, in the aesthetics of filmmaking itself, and allowing the viewers to come up to their own conclusion, which I appreciate.
And then also again, talking about Mi Aporte and then also Chronicle of my Life. Because of the racial dynamics within revolutionary Cuba at the time, those shorts, which made explicit references to race, they were actually unacknowledged within her catalogue of film offerings after her passing. So when people were doing retrospectives, scholarship on her work, it was something that people didn't actually, it wasn't available or just because of what she was saying in it, it was pushed away. And I wonder if, because of that, she later on with her first feature, she did it in a way where it wasn't as explicit as beforehand. But yeah, again, I mean, that's my favorite thing about her, it's didactic, but not shoving it down your throat. You're not watching, if you wanna read, you can read, but we're reading images at the moment, you know what I'm saying?
Yasmina Price: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think it's also, it's a didactic pedagogic approach that I think always, at least from my perspective, seems to foreground that the real learning is again done in relation, in conversation, that it is this constant back and forth, and is not just sort of a top down, here's my final read of what Cuba in 1962 is like for Black people or Black women.
And I think also something that's really important in that Chronicles of my Family film is also that I think it shows two other things, which I think are quite crucial to her filmmaking. I think one of them being, my perspective is that more than anything, she was a filmmaker who was against homogenizing and against universalizing and against flattening difference. And so she's giving this insight into her Black Cuban family. But even there, she's showing these class differentials, 'cause her cousin, Berta, who she says is her favorite, is clearly of a different class position than her godmother, her madrina, who talks about being in these dance clubs and these different social clubs that also existed for the Black middle class. Whereas Berta who's shown in her smaller, more modest home, giving a beer to Sara, who's presumably on the other side of the camera, even though you can't see her.
And something else too, which I think circles back to what you were saying about that intimate quality of her filmmaking is that I think she's also someone who proves that an approach through a more individualized story, at least in terms of the container of her own family can absolutely be an insight into larger collective questions, that it's not necessarily one or the other. Which I think also from the sort of political ecosystem of Cuban filmmaking at the time, I think there probably would've been more encouragement for more collective ensemble stories in a sort of consistent way. Whereas sometimes she shows that actually that intimate, smaller entry point is also one that can open out in multiple directions. And I know that you and I could keep speaking about her for probably several more hours. I think that might be my last piece for this.
Ruun Nuur: Yeah, I mean, man, I don't even know where to sort of end, but I do wanna sort bring up this point of we're talking about her short films, the beautiful restorations being done by Vulnerable Media Lab, but why does it have to be this case? Or why is it now? After many years that we've already been introduced to her work. This is a point of reference for both of us, and for many other people as well.
A topic that I can talk about for a little bit too long, to a point where it might annoy people is just the violence of the archives In the context of Sara Gómez, though, what I've noticed, what you've noticed, what many of us have been able to articulate, is that a lot of these revolutionary filmmakers or filmmakers on the margins, whether it be women filmmakers from the Global South who are making these choices in terms of addressing class, race, gender, sexuality, religion as well, we didn't even mention that part, but she has such an emphasis on African religions. But somehow these filmmakers whose entire identity, or at least a big section of their identity is on accessibility and making sure that their films are available to be seen, and someone like Sara specifically, who is all about the local is global. Making these films about her hometown, her family, her country, and yet, it's inaccessible, all of these filmmakers who have been major points of reference for both of us. And who are talking about radical, their films are as radical as they are. And yet they're collecting dust in these archives and it takes the work of scholars, film practitioners, whoever the case may be, who are identifying this and doing the hard work of restoring them and preserving them and making sure that they're available to be seen. But with someone like Sara, it is heartbreaking that it's coming until now for that to happen. And then when it is restored, it's played in repertory theaters, right? No offense, but that's just what the case is. How is this being made accessible to the people who are actually from these neighborhoods, from that country, who are Afro-Cubana women? You know what I'm saying? We can talk about the Sarah Maldoror as well, but yeah. Yasmina, what are your thoughts when it comes to something like that?
Yasmina Price: Well, as I know you know. I think one thing which, well, maybe the best thing to do is to put this into relation with the cinematic context that she was in.
So there was this larger framing of what was called Third Cinema, which was this revolutionary cinema which came out of Latin America in the '60s and '70s. And in some contexts, the term has been extended to point to all of the guerrilla filmmaking that was being made in the Global South more broadly. And I think what was really, really critical in those cinematic circuits, is something which I think is unfortunately being forgotten over and over and over again, that whatever the adjective is, a radical film, a guerrilla film, a militant film, et cetera, et cetera, but also just cinema more broadly is never, ever only about the thing that you're seeing on the screen, which is to say that there's the conditions of production, there's all of the labor questions that come into how the film is made. But then there's also the avenues of distribution, which is I think something which is heartbreakingly lacking, especially when it comes to African cinema, cinema from the Global South, where even when those films reemerge now many decades after the time when they were first made, now it's not under the same material conditions. Which is to say that a common practice in the Third Cinema militant tradition, which is actually something that we see at the end of Mi Aporte is a real emphasis on showing the films to the peoples whose concerns are being screened. Which is to say that then the film itself is only one part of a dynamic exchange.
It is also seriously about thinking what are the labor questions that people are wrestling with, the ones around race, the ones around gender, and this idea of an active spectatorship, where you're not supposed to just sit there, passively absorb the film in an arthouse cinema in New York, and then walk away. You're supposed to be there with your family, your comrades, your coworkers. It was actually an indication of social relation and not passive viewership. Which is to say that I think if the project is to really honor the work that these filmmakers were doing, it is going to have to be more than restoring it and showing them in only certain select geographic, institutional, organizational contexts. But it means really also then taking on a responsibility to recognize that, for example, the fact that so much of the extraordinary African cinema, Afro-diasporic cinema that was made in the '60s and '70s is owned by different bodies in the Global North. And so even when those films are coming back, it's well, where are they coming back? Are Gómez's shorts also being screened in Cuba currently, now that they're restored, or not? And if not, then maybe we need to pause, think about our cinematic work.
Ruun Nuur: Exactly, exactly. I mean, when we're thinking of, I think where it becomes heartbreaking, honestly, for me, is these films are a vessel of our collective memory, and it's not that these filmmakers, or it's not that these films don't exist, it's not that these histories are erased, people were doing that work. They were collectivizing, they were recording, they were doing whatever preservation they were doing as well. It wasn't like they were throwing these prints, whatever the case may be. But there is an active extraction as well.
A lot of countries or filmmakers who are from the Global South, a lot of their movies do move up to the Global North. They're under such barricades and legalities, that even though you can identify that it's there, it takes so long to even be able to extract it, if ever that's even the case. So I just wanted to name that because I'm so grateful to have borne witness to her short films in particular. And know that, OK, yes, I know that it existed, but now I'm seeing it. And it's a beautiful restoration, restoration which is synonymous with retooling cultural heritage, with her, right? That's how I feel. Retooling cultural heritage, it's this reconfiguration of histories. When you do this act of restoration as well, you are placing these people back into the cannon. You're putting them back onto the timeline. Sara Gómez existed, her work is important. And again, it's important for this to be distributed and be exhibited to all who care for it. But especially let's make an explicit emphasis on the people of Cuba or Cuban descent, or African women, women of African descent as well. People who share her politics as well, because it is our duty of care to really restore these films, preserve it, to reference her as well, right? Reference filmmakers like Sara Gómez, because that's how you continue to keep the legacy alive, essentially.
Yasmina Price: Absolutely, and especially films like this, they are supposed to be alive and circulating. They're not supposed to be locked into any kind of box, but honestly, your last words, I could not imagine a more beautiful ending to this conversation. It is just such a joy to speak with you, especially about this filmmaker. And I'm grateful to Layla for inviting us to do this.
Ruun Nuur: Likewise.
Top of page: Yasmina Price and Ruun Nuur (Zoom screen shot)