Last Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, The Arcus Center hosted a screening of a short documentary titled Maestra. The title of the film, meaning female teacher in Spanish, prepares the viewer for the subject matter, young women teaching children how to read.
Through interviews and narration from author Alice Walker the film presents the experiences of several women during the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961. Around 100,000 women during this time period worked as teachers before the age of 18.
The Cuban Literacy Campaign began in 1961 with the hope of clearing illiteracy throughout Cuba within a single year. Over 240,000 people volunteered to take part in the teaching in order to achieve this goal, half of these volunteers were women.
Video footage of children being taught to read the documentary in intertwined with narratives of women working with the campaign. These women, now in their sixties, describe some of their experiences on what it meant to be both a teacher and a woman during 1961 in Cuba.
A diverse group of women were interviewed for the film. Among the women interviewed one of them was the first women to openly become a part of Cuba’s LGBT community. Another woman involved in the program was one of the first Cuban women to call herself a feminist. These themes carry through the entirety of the documentary and make themselves clear when shown the treatment of women through the various interviews.
Maestra shows the willingness of young Cuban women to assist in eradicating illiteracy within the country of Cuba. The director, Catherine Murphy, created this documentary to spread the message of hope and also to benefit and begin her founding of The Literacy Project.
The screening was open to the community and free for students of Kalamazoo College. Tickets to this event were sold out quickly. The Arcus center supports many community outreach programs such as the showing of Maestra. The theatre seeks to provide an educational environment for students of Kalamazoo College as well those in the city of Kalamazoo.
Next week Kalamazoo College will host another acclaimed Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando. Film screenings and conversations with the director will occur Monday from 4-5:30 and Wednesday from 6:30-8 in Dewing 103.