After the national and international success of Conducta (2014), all of Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Daranas’s projects become front-page news on the island. It was recently announced that the director, together with a small team of passionate specialists, were to undertake the restoration of the documentary work of Cuban Nicolás Guillén Landrián, prolonged by the difficulties associated with the pandemic. Now a new Daranas project is announced, to be released at the end of 2022 and produced by Cuban film institute ICAIC.
In Daranas’s films he is interested in reflecting, directly or indirectly, on who Cuban society is as a people and what impulses brought us here has always prevailed. For example the tribute to the Spanish emigrants in the documentary ‘The Last Pipers of Havana’ (2004), the commemoration of the first republican years in Havana in ‘The Broken Gods’ (2008), the evocation of the Special Period and the Soviet influence on ‘Sergio and Sergei’ (2017), or the indirect re-creation of the Yoruba ancestors in the recent documentary ‘Natalia’ (2019).
Now the director brings us ‘Indigenous Cuba’, a documentary series in three chapters, one hour each, which investigates the legacy of the aboriginal settlers and their presence in Cuba today.
The series accompanies the journey of the outstanding Cuban geneticist Beatriz Marcheco and the renowned Spanish photographer Héctor Garrido through the most remote and mountainous areas of eastern Cuba, in the Sierra Maestra and the Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa massif, with the purpose of studying the remnants of a culture that was believed extinct.
After studying DNA samples, the life stories of three families are presented, one in each chapter, and in these encounters between the geneticist, the photographer, the filmmaking team and the protagonists, the powerful legacy of the Taínos, the first settlers of the island, a people that generally was perceived to have perished, exterminated by the conquerors.
Some research during the 20th century pointed to the possibility that there were Taíno strongholds in some very specific areas of the eastern mountains, and after three years of work, Marcheco and Garrido presented the necessary scientific documentation to confirm the existence of families of Taíno descendants.
The series directed by Daranas uncovers life stories, the survival of cultural and spiritual traditions, the pride of feeling part of a civilization that managed to survive all possible violence.
The numerous discoveries of indigenous Cuba are gathered around three chapters entitled “El cacique de la Montaña”, “Bella Pluma” and “Catalina la Grande”, three stories that synthesize the harsh experiences of the descendants of Taínos in the complicated circumstances of contemporary rural Cuba.
And although it can be said that in the Cuban audiovisual there are few traces of our aboriginal ancestors, the remarkable effort of visual anthropology and ethnographic documentary, undertaken in recent decades by Televisión Serrana, must also be recognized. However, indigenous Cuba will mark a before and after around the audiovisual reflection of the Taínos and will have to contribute to finding the missing piece in the enormous puzzle that makes up the various original sources of ‘Lo Cubano’.