Cross-Cultural Film Guide/ Patricia Aufderheide
The American University/ ©1992
Plot: Teresa is a Cuban woman who exemplifies the problems of Cuban women under the revolution: They have done a lot for the revolution, but what has the revolution done for them?
Teresa (Daysi Granados, the director's wife and one of post-1959 Cuban cinema's most prominent actors since its origins) has three sons (Granados' and Vega's own) and a traditional, rather suspicious husband (Adolfo Llaurado, another prominent actor). She also has a factory job, and is a dedicated, harrassed revolutionary worker who takes on the job of cultural secretary at the factory despite misgivings that she won't be able to handle her many responsibilities. The responsibilities of the latter position increase her husband's jealousy and infantilism, and make her feel increasingly inadequate. She throws her husband out after an ugly scene, and he returns to his mother's house. She is left shouldering the day-to-day burdens of managing life under the revolution.
Style: Vega said, in interview in Havana with Pat Aufderheide in July 1983, that among filmmakers he most highly esteemed Robert Flaherty, for his ability to reveal with deceptive simplicity the drama of daily life, and also the Italian neorealists. He chose, in his earlier work especially and quintessentially in Portrait of Teresa, to use a style reminiscent of documentary, carrying with it the truth claims of documentary, while developing narratives of psychological crisis and evolution. "You can't film the hearts of men with a candid camera," he said. "The things that most influence daily life are the unconscious ones--the neorealists knew that." A scene of Teresa waking up and going through her morning routine is exemplary; it is conducted in what appears to be (but isn't) real time, and is meticulously detailed, giving the viewer a sense of the myriad responsibilities Teresa faces.
Background on director/film: Pastor Vega, who came to be one of the most influential figures in ICAIC, throughout most of the '80s heading the international division including the film festival, began his work at ICAIC, as many did, in documentaries. He made several sharply pointed film essays, including the 1967 Song of the Tourist, a 15 minute film comparing underdevelopment ad revolution. Portrait of Teresa was his first feature and widely acknowledged still to be his best. The film was co-scripted by renowned writer Ambrosio Fornet.
Film production context: See Memories of Underdevelopment.
Importance: This was one of Cuba's all-time most popular films in Cuba, because it so graphically and empathetically addressed a pervasive problem. (Other Cuban documentaries and fiction features have dealt with the subject, but none with the combination of emotional appeal and sociological boldness.) Internationally it has become one of the handful of Cuban films regarded as emblematic of the best in Cuban cinema.
Pat Aufderheide, "Cuba Vision: Three Decades of Cuban Film," in Philip Brenner et al., eds, The Cuba Reader, 1989
Brenner, P., et al., The Cuba Reader. New York: Grove, 1989.
Michael Chanan, The Cuban Image, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985
John King, Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America, London: Verso, 1990
B. Ruby Rich, "Portrait of Teresa: Double day, double standards," Jump/Cut 22 (May 1980), pp. 30f.
Last updated on September 17, 1996
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