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Introducing Gloria Rolando

US Tour: Aug - Oct '97

Interview in "Women," Havana

Biography, list of films

Contacting Gloria Rolando

Obtaining Gloria's videos

Afro-Cuban Film Maker Gloria Rolando ends US tour
- December 22, 1996

After a successful tour of 24 cities with over 35 presentations, the Afro-Cuban film maker Gloria Rolando returned to Havana on December 22nd, 1996. While in the US, she presented the two videos in her African Diaspora series, "Oggun, Forever Present," and "My Footsteps in Baragua." Gloria researched, directed, and wrote the script for both these videos.

Gloria Rolando carried out an extensive tour of the US in which she presented both documentaries. As Gloria relates, "the oral tradition, the African heritage, the struggle of Blacks to maintain their identity, are elements in common in these two documentaries. Their positive reception especially among African-American audiences shows just how many shared aspects exist among our histories."

Oggun: Forever Present

Gloria has been in the film industry since 1976. From 1989 on, she's worked to develop her own line of scripts and documentaries as a director. As she relates: "my interest is in Afro-Cuban culture and the anonymous peoples who belong to the complex history of the African diaspora. It was not until 1991 that I was able to complete my first film, in video, under my own direction: Oggun, Forever Present."

This documentary was produced by Videoamerica S.A., a video company with representation in Havana. From 1992 until now, "Oggun" has been shown in more than 50 Universities and cultural centers in different cities in the United States, where this film has been recognized for its aesthetic quality and the importance of its testimony from the African oral tradition.

In 1994 "Oggun" won the Premio de la Popularidad in the Festival de Video Mujer e Imagen celebrated in Ecuador. More information about this documentary may be found in an article that Gloria Rolando wrote: " 'Oggun': Proposiciones a traves de un Video," published in Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, edited by Arturo Lindsay in a collection of the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996. Oggun is available in the US from the AfroCubaWeb Site.

Imagenes del Caribe: independent video production group

In 1995 Gloria Rolando decided to create the Grupo de Video Independiente, "Imagenes del Caribe," with the goal of finding an outlet for her work to continue. The group consists of Cuban television and film professionals/artists. It has official status under the Movimiento Nacional de Video de Cuba.

My Footsteps in Baragua

Imagenes del Caribe's first artistic production was "My Footsteps in Baragua," which discusses the West Indian community in Cuba. The documentary is dedicated to three important Caribbean intellectuals: Nicolas Guillen (Cuba), George Lamming (Barbados), and Rex Nettleford (Jamaica). As Gloria relates: "Through the personal stories of these immigrants and their descendants, the film brings to life the historical process that was common to many sons and daughters of the Caribbean who today live in the United States, Canada, and England."

Future Work

I. Promotion of existing works. This includes submissions to film festivals within and outside the US. AfroCubaWeb Site has promotional copies available for festivals..

II. Production of new documentaries: "Imagenes del Caribe" as an Independent Video Group is seeking funding to produce the projects described below. Funding for Cuba based projects will have to come from outside the US, under current law. Funding for joint projects within the US can be obtained from within the US, an important point given the current situation.

A) "My Roots?" Reflections, stories, and images that reveal some aspects of spirituality, and common roots among Black Cubans and Afro-Americans. As Gloria explains: "The question mark of the title is part of the debate that this documentary poses in order to comment on our past and present as sons and daughters of the same continent: Africa. This idea arose from the trips that I made to the US and my contact with the Afro-American community. What is there in common in our lives? The language of the drum. The revindication of our ancestral culture. Paul Marshall wrote something that could be the guiding light of this project: 'We are people who transformed humiliating experiences into creative ones.' It is possible that this project will be carried out in collaboration with Toni Lee, an Afro-American film maker from Atlanta, and perhaps other interested Afro-American film makers."

B) "Cuba in Tampa" An investigation into the over one hundred years of Cuban presence in Tampa, with special attention to the figure of Jose Marti. This projects represents an interesting example of cooperation between Cuban and US film and academic communities.

C) "Shango, en la memoria del tiempo." Myth and reality are united to tell the story of the King of the Yorubas, master of drums, thunder, and the royal palm. In the entire Afro-American and Antillean world, Shango is the expression of ancestral struggle and vigor.

D) "Sarita." On the first Afro-Cuban woman who worked in film in Cuba: Sara Gomez Yera. Her film "On one way or another" is studied in many North American universities.

E) "Ecos del Antiguo Dahomey." This project has a cultural immediacy: to document, before they disappear, the last descendants in Cuba of the Ancient Empire of Dahomey, the current Republic of Benin. In Cuba they are known as "Araras."

Biography

Gloria Rolando Casamayor was born in the city of Havana in 1953. She studied Art History in the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the University of Havana, graduating in 1976, with a specialization in Latin American Art. That same year she began working at ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Artes e Industrias Cinematograficas). She thus began her artistic career in film. Like other Cuban film makers, her preparation was self-taught, in keeping with the tradition of documentary film as a school, which combines learning with practice in the production of films.

Gloria Rolando has worked as assistant director on more than 20 Cuban documentaries of varying themes and styles, including docu-dramas. In her artistic career, she has collaborated with the noted documentalist Santiago Alvarez ("Memorias para un reencuentro," "La Soledad de los Dioses," "Historia de una Plaza"). As a script writer for documentaries in the ICAIC she has been responsible for the following titles: "Tumba Francesa" (1977), about the history, dances, and traditions of Haitians who arrived in Cuba after the Haitian Revolution; "Haiti en la memoria" (1986), on the presence of the Haitians who came to Cuba at the beginning of this century as Antillean workers; "Tan solo con la guitarra" (1989), concerning the Argentine artist Maria Luisa Anido, known internationally as the Lady of the Guitar.

During these years Gloria has worked particularly on a series of documentaries that have given her a greater knowledge of Cuban culture, as well as bringing her closer to the rest of Afro-Caribbean culture: "Algo mas que el Mar de los Piratas" (1979), about the cultural identity of Caribbean peoples (dir. Bernabe Hernandez), along with other titles related to Cuban matters, and especially with Afro-Cuba: "El viaje mas largo" and "El Mensajero de los Dioses" (both directed by Rigoberto Lopez). She was one of the assistant directors in the fictional film "Maluala" by the well-known Afro-Cuban film maker Sergio Giral. In parallel with these intense activities in film making, Gloria completed postgraduate studies in Caribbean literature at the University of Havana and the Casa de las Americas. Her research focused on the presence of the theme of slavery and emigration in Caribbean literature.

From 1989 on, Gloria has worked to develop her own line of scrips and documentaries on the African Diaspora in Cuba. In 1995, she formed Imágenes del Caribe, an independent video group, with other Cuban film and TV professionals.

Phone: (537) 62-79-04 Fax: (537) 33.32.81 -- ICAIC (537) 33.28.09 -- Movimiento Nacional de Video de Cuba

More information:

  1. A write up of "My Footsteps in Baragua." This video on the West Indians in Cuba is available in English (the original production language) and Spanish.
  2. An interview with Gloria in "Mujeres" ("Women"), 1996, published in Havana. This describes the Oggun video, available with English subtitles, and a proposed film on Sara Gomez, noted AfroCuban movie maker.
  3. An introduction to the West Indian Welfare Center and its programs. This independent institution is located in the city of Guantanamo (not the US base!) and is charted to provide social and medical services among other activities. The Center recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and today includes many professional members.
  4. A Biographical Notice of Gloria Rolando with an extensive portfolio listing and a statement of purpose.

Anyone interested in having Gloria give a talk or show her films, please contact AfroCubaWeb.

Contacting Gloria Rolando

Gloria Rolando can be reached when in Cuba by phone at tel: 011 53 7 62.79.04 and by mail at:

Obispo #356, 3ra piso, apto 3
Entre Habana y Compostela
Habana, Cuba 10100

Obtaining Gloria's videos

The 2 videos, "My Footsteps in Baragua" and "Oggun" are priced each at $30 for individuals and $125 for institutions. US law does allow for the import of music, films, books, paintings, and sculptures from Cuba, virtually the only legal avenue for financial transactions and for expressing support for folks down there.

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

Electronic mail
acw_AT_afrocubaweb.com [replace _AT_ with @]

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