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Über dieses Buch

This book maps the aesthetic experience of late socialism through Cuban film and media practice. It shows how economic and material scarcity as well as political uncertainty is expressed aesthetically in films from the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a characteristic described as imperfect aesthetics. The films examined in the book draw attention to the unique temporal experience of late socialism, a period marked both by rapid change and frustrating stasis, nostalgia for Cuba’s past and anxiousness about its future. Aesthetic modes such as melodrama and irony, and stylistic elements such as direct address and the long take, communicate the temporal experience of late socialism in Cuba, where new global traffic and a globalizing economy co-exist with iconic socialist features of the Cuban revolution. Film aesthetics constitute an important public dimension within this context, serving as a site of political and cultural critique amidst political uncertainty. In examining large-scale international co-productions as well as regional film collectives and amateur media making, the book traces the aesthetic continuities between contemporary film practices and those of the immediate post-revolutionary period, showing how the Cuban revolution continues to be an important touchstone for contemporary Cuban filmmakers in the face of new and imminent change.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Imperfect Cinema and Making Do

Abstract
Balaisis offers an important overview of film and media practices in Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Focusing on large-scale international co-productions as well as regional film collectives and amateur media making, Balaisis traces the aesthetic continuities between contemporary film practices and those of the immediate post-revolutionary period. He shows how material scarcity as well as political uncertainty are expressed aesthetically in films from the period, a characteristic described as imperfect aesthetics. Imperfect Cinema and Making Do concludes with a discussion of the relationship between Cuban film and the public sphere, stressing the role of aesthetics as a site of political and cultural critique amid the political uncertainty of the late socialist period.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 2. Late Socialism, the Special Period, and Film and Media Practice

Abstract
Balaisis maps the economic and political conditions that underscore film and media practice in late socialist Cuba. He draws attention to the specific temporality of the period, a period that is marked both by rapid change and transformation as well as stasis, stagnation, and nostalgia. He argues that aesthetic modes such as melodrama and irony, as well as stylistic elements such as direct address and the long take, communicate the temporal experience of late socialism in Cuba, where new global traffic and a globalizing economy co-exist with iconic socialist features of the Cuban revolution. Balaisis situates the contemporary period within a broader history of modernity—as a slow and asymmetrical global process—which has a similarly contradictory experience of time.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 3. Mourning the Revolution: Melodrama and Temporality in Late Socialist Narrative Cinema

Abstract
Balaisis examines the resurgence of melodrama in late socialist narrative cinema and maps its role in the Cuban public sphere. Through a close reading of Humberto Solás’s 2001 film Miel para Oshún, Balaisis shows how the melodramatic register allows Solás to negotiate some of the economic challenges and ideological dilemmas of the post-Soviet period such as the rise of global tourism, persistent material shortages, and the Cuban diaspora. Balaisis draws important connections between melodrama as an aesthetic mode and its role as ideological refuge to the Cuban spectator. Balaisis situates Oshún within the international film festival circuit through which it circulated globally, arguing that the shift towards the interior landscape of emotion is in part a response to the geopolitical vacuum left by the wake of the Soviet collapse and the emergence of a singular cultural power: the United States.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 4. Localizing the Global: Transnational Filmmaking at EICTV

Abstract
Balaisis examines the impact of globalization on Cuba through an analysis of the international film and media school EICTV. Building on interviews conducted with students and administrators, and on case studies from the school, Balaisis shows how EICTV embodies many of the contradictions of the late socialist period, where residual elements of Cuban socialism and Third World solidarity co-exist with the economic realities of the global media and film industries. Balaisis also explores EICTV as a site of the contemporary global imaginary. Drawing on recent theories of media and globalization, Balaisis shows how the films produced at the school give evidence of an intercultural imaginary, one that foregrounds the local as a site of cultural meaning in the context of globalization.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 5. Negotiated Endurance: Rural Film Production and Improvised Cinema at Televisión Serrana

Abstract
Balaisis examines the importance of non-profit and transnational filmmaking in the late socialist period by examining films produced at Televisión Serrana, a rural media organization in eastern Cuba. He argues that the films and videos produced at TVS exemplify an ethos of making do in the face of technological and material scarcity, both in their means of production as well as in the stories that they document about rural Cuba. Balaisis draws particular attention to a 2001 documentary entitled Como por primera vez, which documents the continued “late” arrival of media and technology into rural parts of Cuba, and highlights the laborious efforts and on-the-fly repair work performed by mobile cinema projectionists. Balaisis situates these media practices within a discussion of postcolonial modernities, arguing that creative adaptation of media and technology is a way for Cubans to actively participate in global modernity, a modernity that is deferred and delayed largely as a result of the US embargo.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 6. One Must Invent: Tactical Aesthetics and Imperfect Design

Abstract
Balaisis draws important attention to the legacy of imperfect cinema in contemporary film, digital media, and design practice. Outlining what he calls tactical aesthetics and imperfect design, Balaisis discusses strategies used by Cubans in the post-Soviet period to extend the life cycle of various commodities and create new household items from discarded objects. He also examines the curatorial and critical work of Cuban industrial designer Ernesto Oroza, mapping the influence of Cuban film theory from the 1960s on contemporary aesthetic theory and design practice in Cuba. He situates these practices within the discursive and rhetorical history of industrialism and innovation in Cuba, as well as within emerging international discourses on “making” and maker culture.
Nicholas Balaisis

Chapter 7. Afterword

Abstract
Balaisis concludes the book with reference to the symbolic geo-political events that occurred in Cuba in 2015–16, such as the state visit by President Obama. Balaisis argues that there is an ironic symmetry between recent optimism surrounding these events and those in the immediate years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, arguing that like the early 1990s, Obama’s visit has brought new global attention to Cuba and a sense of urgency in the island’s political present. At the same time, old narratives continue to dominate official political discourse. Under this shadow, Balaisis concludes that film, media, and design in the late socialist period represent an alternative critical space that offer important counter-narratives to those espoused by political leaders on both sides of the Caribbean sea.
Nicholas Balaisis

Backmatter

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