International Year of Cuba premieres film for students

Taylor Metcalf

“So far, everything in this movie has been nuts,” said Yuliet Ortega, the subject of the documentary “¿Quién diablos es Juliette?” or “Who the Hell is Juliette?” translated from Spanish.

The music-video style documentary was shown last week as part of a week of Cuban films shown in Cherry Hall for the International Year of Cuba. The “International Year Of …” page describes the program as providing “the WKU campus and surrounding community with a rich, complex sense of place and interconnectedness through a year-long celebration of a single country.”

The event took place over the course of two weeks and showed various Cuban movies and documentaries. Ted Hovet, an English and film professor and one of the coordinators of the showings, described the film week as “giving insight into Cuba through cinema.”

The documentary followed Ortega and the people surrounding her — Ortega was described as a teenage street prostitute, or jinetera, a Spanish word for women who engage in illegal activities such as prostitution. The film took place during the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and in turn the fall of Cuba’s economy. The fall left the people of Cuba hungry for food and a way into a better life.

For some young men and women, the way out was to sell themselves to rich foreigners for a chance to escape starvation. Ortega mentioned she did not enjoy sleeping with the foreigners, but she had things she wanted, and she needed money to get them.

The film flipped back and forth in time and place, documenting different people and important events. One of the main characters was Fabiola Quiroz, a Mexican model and actress who met Ortega while she filmed a music video. Quiroz became a friend to Ortega and the story surrounding both women.

After the documentary finished, Hovet and Marc Eagle, a Latin American history professor and the second coordinator of the film week, opened up the floor to discuss the film, saying it could be “confusing.”

Eagle asked questions about what the audience thought about how Ortega perceived herself, how the film defined her as a person, the economic state of Cuba and even the mixing of races within the film.

One audience member, Aniaya Crawford, voiced her opinions and questions about the film in the discussion.

“I think it could be [relevant in 2019] because of human trafficking,” Crawford said after the discussion. “She’s not being trafficked, but she’s using sex and prostitution for money and to live, and we have people that do that same thing.”

The film doesn’t try to wrap all of these things into a “neat package,” Hovet said. The film shows the “various Cubas” each person is living — a different life, a different experience each Cuban has.

“Last semester we showed more classic Cuban films that people knew about,” Eagle said. “This one [the film week] we tried to look for more experimental ways of viewing Cuban film. And this one stands out — it’s a documentary, but it’s a weird kind of documentary.”

While the film could be called “weird,” it addressed several topics in Cuba such as hunger and prostitution. Additionally, the film had a unique structure and ending.

The week concluded with “Vampiros en la Habana!” and the “International Year Of …” program will conclude the 2018-2019 Year of Cuba with “Evening of Dance.”

Features reporter Taylor Metcalf can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].