TV Serrana: Alternative Pictures of Cuba

Who: Global Media Research Center
What: Carlos Rodriguez and Alexandra Halkin's Cuba's TV Serrana (filmmaking lecture and film screenings)
When: 2011-03-25
TV Serrana: Alternative Pictures of Cuba
Jennifer "Jay" Bull

TV Serrana, founded in 1993, has produced more than five-hundred documentaries about life in Cuba's Sierra Maestra Mountains. The organization was brought to the United States for a tour by the Chicago-based Americas Media Initiative's Cuba Media Project to show a Cuba rarely seen by those in the United States. The tour comes Friday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. to the Marion Kleinau Theatre in SIU's Communication Building. The two-hour presentation is free and open to the public.

"I'm a documentary filmmaker and I've been doing work in Cuba since the early nineties," Alex Halkin, a documentary filmmaker who organized the U.S. tour, told Nightlife. "I met the founder of TV Serrana in a film festival in Guatemala in the late nineties and I had started to see work produced by TV Serrana, but I had never visited them because they are based up in the mountains. Last January, I was finally able to visit them. I've been working in indigenous media and community media in Latin America for fifteen years now, and I was just really impressed with the quality of their work-- you know, the themes, the way they interacted with the community that they serve."

While she was impressed with the work of TV Serrana, getting a tour in the United States was challenging.

"It's basically taken a year to make this happen, just because between Cuba and the United States and getting all the permissions that you need and the visa, it takes a lot of time," Halkin said. "It was really hard, but I'm a very persistent person, and I just know that people are going to love this work in the United States because people in the U.S. rarely see anything produced in Cuba. I just think that this is such a unique perspective on Cuba that people are really going to fall in love with this work for sure. Everybody that has seen it so far has been like, 'Oh my god, this stuff is great!' so I hope people in Carbondale feel the same way."

A TV Serrana representative, Carlos Rodriquez, will tour with Halkin.

"I think just the fact that I was able to get someone from TV Serrana to come to the United States-- you know, it's not just me presenting this work, it is an actual Cuban who lives in Cuba; some of the work is his," Halkin said. "They can have a direct interaction with him. It is not like I am going to be this filter. Carlos Rodriquez is a fluent English speaker, so I won't even be translating for him.

"TV Serrana is small community television," Rodriguez told Nightlife. "We have the name television, Television Serrana, but we are not actually on television because we don't broadcast. Many people get confused when they first hear 'Television Serrana.' We produce videos and we make a community work. Then we use these videos for innovating-- some for working with the community, for raising awareness. At the same time, we use these videos. We send them to festivals, they are broadcast on national television, too, so the rest of the country can get to know what is happening to these people, what is their culture like, you know?"

While Rodriguez said that the quality of the videos speak for themselves, "The most important thing is not to show the videos. The important thing here is to show the people represented in those videos, but at the same time I would like to talk about our experience and how these works have helped to form the community life in Sierra Maestra."

TV Serrana's goal is not just to create art, but to change lives.

"[O]ur goal is not only to produce videos for these people," Rodriguez said. "We use it as a tool for transforming reality. It has changed a lot of things there. Art has to be good for something else other than just aesthetic pleasure. That is what we think-- we use it as a tool of action, transforming reality. I want to share that experience, how we view what this means, share ideas and to exchange and also to have some feedback from people and see if they understand it and see if it works."

"This is the first time that TV Serrana has ever presented their work in the United States, and it is a really unique opportunity for people to come and see this work," Halkin said. "[W]e translated twenty of their short documentaries to English and we're going to have the DVDs available at the presentation. Take advantage of this opportunity."

who: Global Media Research Center

what: Carlos Rodriguez and Alexandra Halkin's Cuba's TV Serrana (filmmaking lecture and film screenings)

where: Communications Building Marion Kleinau Theatre

when: Friday, March 25