Sara Gómez

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Sara Gómez
Sara Gómez Yera

November 8, 1942
DiedJune 2, 1974(1974-06-02) (aged 31)
Cause of deathAsthma
Years active1962 - 1974
Notable work
De cierta manera (1977)
Spouse(s)Germinal Hernandez, Hector Veitia

Sara Gómez aka Sarita Gómez (November 8, 1942 – June 2, 1974) was a Cuban filmmaker. As a member of ICAIC during its early years, she was one of only two black filmmakers in attendance. She was the institute's first and for her lifetime Cuba's only, woman director. Gómez is known for her first and final feature length film De Cierta Manera (1974) and as, "a revolutionary filmmaker with intersecting concerns about the Afro-Cuban community and the value of its cultural traditions, women's issues, and the treatment of the marginalized sectors of society."[1]

Early life and Education[edit]

Brought up in a middle-class black family in Havana, she studied music (piano), literature, and Afro-Cuban ethnography. She worked as a journalist on the youth publication Mella before joining the newly-formed Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) in 1961, where she subsequently served as assistant director to Jorge Fraga and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, as well as to the visiting French director Agnès Varda. Gómez made a series of documentary shorts on assigned topics before directing her first feature.[2]

Career - Contribution to Cuban Cinema[edit]

Sara Gómez's last film, the hybrid narrative/documentary De cierta manera, (translated for US audiences as One Way or Another) has been hailed as the "first movie to truly explore conflicting threads of racial and gender identity within a revolutionary context."[3] However, Gómez died before the film could be completed and so Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Rigoberto Lopez, and Julio García Espinosa supervised the sound-mix and post-production stages of preparing "One way or Another" for theatrical release.[4] Noted Cuban film scholar Michael Chanan observes that the film is "an aesthetically radical film...mix[ing]...fiction and documentary, in the most original using real people to play themselves alongside professional actors."[5] Haseenah Ebrahim writes about how Gómez's work brings attention to religious groups such as the Abakuá, "Afrocuban religions make an appearance in the films and videos of almost all Afrocuban filmmakers, and feature prominently in the work of Gómez..." and highlights the importance of Sara Gómez's background as a black Cuban woman in cinema by noting, "In the case of both Gómez and Rolando, race has functioned to provide a perspective that is not mirrored in the work of non-black Cuban filmmakers. Significantly, both women self-identified themselves as black Cubans: Sara Gómez has been quoted as saying she did not want to be 'just another middle-class black woman who plays the piano'".[2] Essayist Roberto Zurbano Torres states, "it is also essential to mark her commitment to popular culture and her critical and self-critical passion through which she expressed the complexity of a world under construction: contributing a cinema of conscience, pointing out the virtues and defects of a social process that tried to change the world from an island in the Caribbean."[6]

As a Subject[edit]

Salut les Cubains[edit]

At the end of Agnès Varda's short documentary Salut les Cubains (1963), Sara Gómez is featured as a young filmmaker dancing Cha-cha-cha with her fellow ICAIC filmmakers (illustrated through photographic animation.) Agnès Varda describes Gómez in the documentary as one who, "directs didactic films."[7]Throughout the production of this film, "She [Gómez] had the opportunity to accompany the prestigious gala director Agnès Varda in her tour of our country and collaborate with her in the documentary"[8]

Sara Gómez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker[edit]

A few decades after Gómez's time, The Swiss filmmaker Alessandra Muller directs the documentary film: Sara Gómez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker (2004), supported both by ICAIC and Agnès Varda, a film which looks back on her life and revisits Gómez's family and friends. In the documentary, they describe her film sets as social events and that Sara would listen to everyone's input, of professionals and those who were not. Actor Mario Balmaseda notes "We spent a lot of time with people from this area, almost three, four months living with them sometimes sleeping and eating in their home, and this made it a lot easier. We slipped from a professional level into friendship." In the documentary, she is praised by her family as as a woman who refused to choose between family and normal life. [9]


Gómez died after editing her feature, at the age of 31, due to an asthma attack.[4]


Short films[edit]

  • Plaza Vieja; El solar; Historia de la piratería; Solar habanero (1962)
  • Iré a Santiago (1964)
  • Excursión a Vueltabajo (1965)
  • Guanabacoa: Crónica de mi familia (1966)
  • ... Y tenemos sabor (1967)
  • En la otra isla; Una isla para Miguel (1968)
  • Isla del tesoro (1969)
  • Poder local, poder popular (1970)
  • Un documental a propósito del tránsito; De bateyes (1971)
  • Atención prenatal; Año uno; Mi aporte (1972)
  • Sobre horas extras y trabajo voluntario (1973

Feature length[edit]

As an Assistant Director[edit]

  • Salut les Cubains (1963) dir. Agnès Varda
  • Cumbite (1964) dir. Tomas Gutierez Alea
  • El Robo (1965) dir. Jorge Fraga

Further reading[edit]

Chanan, Michael. Cuban Cinema Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. ISBN 0816634246 ISBN 978-0816634248


  1. ^ "Sara Gomez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker". Films Media Group. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  2. ^ a b Ebrahim, Haseenah (Winter 1998). "Afrocuban Religions in Sara Gomez's One Way or Another and Gloria Rolando's Oggun". Western Journal of Black Studies. no.4: 239–251 – via Ebscohost.
  3. ^ Andrea Easley Morris, Afro-Cuban Identity in Postrevolutionary Novel and Film: Inclusion, Loss, and Cultural Resistance (Lanham: Bucknell University Press, 2012), p. 12.
  4. ^ a b Julia Lesage. One Way or Another: dialectical, revolutionary, feminist. from Jump Cut, no. 20, may 1978; Jump Cut, No. 57, Fall 2016
  5. ^ Michael Chanan, The Cuban Image (London: BFI Publishing, 1985), pp. 284–85.
  6. ^ "SARA GOMEZ: A BLACK FILMMAKER ABLE TO ACHIEVE THE MYSTERY AND SILENCE OF THE TRUE CLASSICS | Havana Glasgow Film Festival". Havana Glasgow Film Festival. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  7. ^ Agnes Varda. Salut les Cubains (1963) France, Film.
  8. ^ "Sara Gomez". auto-translation from Spanish using Google Translate. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  9. ^ Alessandra Muller. Sara Gomez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker. (2004)

External links[edit]

See also[edit]