One Way or Another | Chicago Reader

One Way or Another

This extraordinary film (1977), the first Cuban feature by a woman, has been celebrated as feminist by some critics, partly for its story but also for its narrative style. It follows the relationship between schoolteacher Yolanda (Yolanda Cuellar) and factory worker Mario (Mario Balmaseda), but instead of imposing a patriarchal authorial voice, director Sara Gomez provocatively combines fiction sequences with documentary footage, and her playful use of form is both startling and purposeful. The film begins abruptly, as if in midscene, with a documentarylike record of a workers' meeting; the credits are followed by an actual documentary segment on housing development in the early 60s, complete with didactic voice-over. Sections that seem to be dramatic are later revealed to be documentary, while other apparently dramatic scenes are interrupted by discursive sequences. The film's form questions itself, as do the characters: Mario, torn between machismo and his growing revolutionary commitment, turns a malingering worker in to the group, but then worries that doing so was “womanly.” Most importantly, the editing encourages an active viewing process—when the lovers meet a man named Guillermo, a title asks “Who is Guillermo?” and the film then cuts to a slightly closer shot of the same title—just as the overall film encourages us to seek wider interpretations. Sadly, Gomez died in 1974 while the film was being edited, and it wasn't completed until three years later.

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