Fidel between the Lines

Paranoia and Ambivalence in Late Socialist Cuban Cinema

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 22 illustrations Published: October 2019

Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Fidel between the Lines Laura-Zoë Humphreys traces the changing dynamics of criticism and censorship in late socialist Cuba through a focus on cinema. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban state strategically relaxed censorship, attempting to contain dissent by giving it an outlet in the arts. Along with this shift, foreign funding and digital technologies gave filmmakers more freedom to criticize the state than ever before, yet these openings also exacerbated the political paranoia that has long shaped the Cuban public sphere. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, textual analysis, and archival research, Humphreys shows how Cuban filmmakers have historically turned to allegory to communicate an ambivalent relationship to the Revolution, and how such efforts came up against new forms of suspicion in the 1990s and the twenty-first century. Offering insights that extend beyond Cuba, Humphreys reveals what happens to public debate when freedom of expression can no longer be distinguished from complicity while demonstrating the ways in which combining anthropology with film studies can shed light on cinema's broader social and political import.


“By complicating notions of censorship, criticism, and participatory politics in a repressive nation-state such as Cuba, Laura-Zoë Humphreys challenges prevailing interpretations of Cuban films as either supporting or criticizing the Revolution and its leader or as simply negotiating Cuba's political crisis. Drawing on personal interviews with directors and audiences, and textual analysis of films, articles, and reviews, Humphreys shows how allegorical filmmaking and spectators' ‘reading between the lines’ operate through political paranoia where spectators impose a political meaning on cinematic texts forcing filmmakers to defend their artistic creations.” — Yeidy M. Rivero, author of Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950–1960

“Based on many years of fieldwork, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of Cuban cinema and its cultural politics. Laura-Zoë Humphreys addresses canonical texts, both artistic and political, within the context of some of the island's most important cultural and political developments. This impressive accomplishment is both timely and extremely useful to the understanding of contemporary Cuba and to socialist and postsocialist cultures more broadly.” — Masha Salazkina, author of In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura-Zoë Humphreys is Assistant Professor of Communication at Tulane University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: Criticism from Within  1
1. Symptomologies of the State  27
2. Paranoid Readings and Ambivalent Allegories  60
3. Faith without Fidel  90
4. Staying and Suspicion  127
5. Montage in the Parenthesis  166
Coda: "Cuba está de moda"  209
Notes  231
References  265
Index  281
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

A 2020 Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0624-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0547-6