Subject Headings: Exilic/Diasporic cinema, Identity, Documentary
Mirror Dance follows the lives of identical twin sisters Ramona and Margarita de Saá, both former prima ballerinas for the National Ballet of Cuba. After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the twins became separated, as Ramona dedicated herself to the cause by remaining in Cuba, while Margarita immigrated to the United States following a marriage to an American. Set against the backdrop of unstable and tense relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the film examines issues of divided and reterritorialized identity on both a personal and national level.
The de Saá’s story unfolds amidst (mainly) verité sequences, formal interviews, family photographs and old archival footage of not only the twins as ballerinas, but also the volatile 1950s and 60s Havana in which they grew up. Following Fidel Castro’s pledged commitment to the arts, the twins flourished. Margarita, however, began to grow disillusioned with the Revolution, finally making the painful decision to leave her life, and sister, for the United States. She now runs the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet in Narberth, PA. Ramona, a self-described “revolutionary woman,” saw Margarita’s departure as a betrayal, and refused to have contact with her for over 40 years. The film therefore investigates the intersections between the personal and the political, questioning at what cost comes the formation of a national identity.
While the film seeks to universalize the de Saá’s tale of personal pain and loss as a result of international hostilities, it is also a distinctly personal story. On February 28, 2004, Ramona and Margarita were reunited in Cuba, both expressing the desire to remain in contact. Yet, Margarita does assert that she “would not have gone back to Cuba” without the impetus of the documentary.
In June 2004, politics once again intervened when the U.S. government tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba. The twins’ identity in relation to each other, their home country Cuba, and (in the case of Margarita) their exilic home remains complicated.
Preview Clip on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1Y505Gnlds
Film’s Site on PBS Independent Lens: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/mirrordance/film.html
Filmmaker Bios: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/mirrordance/bios.html
Cuban Revolution Information: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/mirrordance/revolution.html
Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet: http://www.paacademyofballet.com/teachers2.htm
National Ballet of Cuba: http://www.balletcuba.cult.cu/
Benamou, Catherine: “Cuban Cinema: On the Threshold of Gender.” In (pp. 67-98) Robin, Diana (ed. and introd.); Jaffe, Ira (ed. and introd.), Redirecting the Gaze: Gender, Theory, and Cinema in the Third World. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 1999. xi, 377 pp.. (Albany, NY: SUNY Series, Cultural Studies in Cinema/Video ). (1999)
D’Lugo, Marvin: “‘Transparent Women’: Gender and Nation in Cuban Cinema.” In (pp. II: 155-66) Martin, Michael T. (ed. and introd.), New Latin American Cinema, I: Theory, Practices and Transcontinental Articulations; II: Studies of National Cinemas. Detroit, MI: Wayne State UP, 1997. 322; 540 pp.. (Detroit, MI: Contemporary Film and Television). (1997)
Quirós, Oscar Enrique: “The Aesthetics of Cuban Cinema: The Emancipatory Role of the Arts in the Cuban Social Whole.” Dissertation Abstracts International, (54:9) 1994 Mar, 3244A. U of Kansas, 1993. DA9405783 . (1994)
López, Ana M.: “Cuban Cinema in Exile: The ‘Other’ Island.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, (38), 1993 June, 51-59. (1993)
Rachel Killackey 2012
Rachel, great entry–puts the film in historical and political context, includes formal detail. Can you please clarify whether the 2004 reunion took place in the course of the film (and it part because of it)?