As a high school student and later an English Literature graduate, I had always taken a personal interest in art that discussed or represented studies on utopian ideology, Brave New World, The Blithedale Romance or Walden Two for example, the Ukiyo-e of Edo is some of my favorite. Along those lines I was driven to see the documentary The Sugar Curtain, screening at TIFF’s overly heated ROM theatre tonight, which discussed Che’s impact on 70s Cuba. I was intrigued listening to other adults my age discuss what it was like to be a “Child Pioneer” in those days and how everything – cookies, cakes, soap, dreams – flowed easily and often.
I’ve never been to Cuba, and in fact have been told by some close friends - supporters of the American political system - that I shouldn’t ever go and support a system of Communism. Instead my head is filled with stereotypes of the place and stories from travelers which tell of the decay of beautiful historic sites, the lack of really decent food, the lack of pencils for schools and of the schism between tourists and citizens. Until now, I had now idea of what may have been felt in the heart and mind of those growing up, and for the most part, trying to leave the island of Cuba.
People here tend to think it’s the US embargo that has caused all Cuba’s problems, but it appears that was a choice they followed with their hearts. The fall of the Iron Curtain in the 1980’s after 70 strong and long years was what has led to their demise they’ll claim. As students and pioneers striving to be the “new man” Che envisioned, they had been told anything was possible and those in their thirties now still appear to believe it. However, they won’t necessarily tell you, but the majority don’t seem to think its possible within Cuba and have eventually moved away. They lament that students growing up now will never know the glory days when everything came easily and yet there was no materialism, there was passion but no religion – now a whole generation faces an uncertain future and little hope. Their only hopes now, appear to oddly enough tie into ideas of Western materialism, as unrealistic as it is unattainable.
The Sugar Curtain
screens again on Friday at 7PM at the Varsity.