From Havana to Hollywood
Slave Resistance in the Cinematic Imaginary
Centers Cuban cinema to explore how films produced in Havana or Hollywood differently represent Black resistance to slavery.
From Havana to Hollywood examines the presence or absence of Black resistance to slavery in feature films produced in either Havana or Hollywood—including Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn!, neglected masterpieces by Cuban auteurs Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Sergio Giral, and Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. Philip Kaisary argues that, with rare exceptions, the representation of Black agency in Hollywood has always been, and remains, taboo. Contrastingly, Cuban cinema foregrounds Black agency, challenging the ways in which slavery has been misremembered and misunderstood in North America and Europe. With powerful, richly theorized readings, the book shows how Cuban cinema especially recreates the past to fuel visions of liberation and asks how the medium of film might contribute to a renewal of emancipatory politics today.
Philip Kaisary is the 2023–2025 Ruth and Mark Phillips Professor of Cultural Mediations and Associate Professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies, the Department of English Language and Literature, and the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture at Carleton University. He is the author of The Haitian Revolution in the Literary Imagination: Radical Horizons, Conservative Constraints.
"In bringing Cuban films to the fore, From Havana to Hollywood expands our understanding of films about slavery globally and illuminates the distinctive perspectives and contributions of Afro-Latin American histories and cultures. The book's lessons about depictions of oppressive regimes and resistance to them will be pertinent for students of Black cinema across national contexts." — Reighan Gillam, author of Visualizing Black Lives: Ownership and Control in Afro-Brazilian Media
"From Havana to Hollywood offers a fascinating examination of Black agency and resistance as portrayed in film. The study is a joy to read, recuperating lesser-known films and offering important critiques of more famous ones such as 12 Years a Slave. Overall, Kaisary shows that, when films make slavery's evils seem individual rather than systemic, they hamper efforts to achieve reparative justice in the present." — Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, author of Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games
"From Havana to Hollywood reshapes how we think about the history of slavery. It can be read by a range of publics, from film fans to undergraduates to professional scholars. Anyone who does not know the films here will go on a mission to see them. Anyone who knows the films will learn far more about them." — Jerry W. Carlson, The City College and Graduate Center CUNY