Monday, August 23, 2010

Documentary depicts Cuban prisoners' living conditions

Posted on Monday, 08.23.10
Documentary depicts Cuban prisoners' living conditions

Oscar's Cuba, a documentary film about Cuban activist Oscar Elías Biscet
-- a prisoner of conscience serving a 25-year sentence -- was shown
Sunday in Little Havana after a tour that took it to audiences in Los
Angeles, Madrid and Paris.

Its executive producer, Jordan Allott, who is not Cuban and lives in
Washington, D.C., said the next stops for the film will be on Capitol
Hill and at 10 universities, including Harvard, MIT, Michigan and Notre

``People are very surprised to hear about what the reality of life is in
Cuba and also about the opposition leaders who are risking their lives
for things that we take for granted,'' said Allott, a 33-year-old
independent filmmaker. ``The reaction is that people want to know more
and want to help.''

A private premiere of Oscar's Cuba took place at the Miami Dade
College's Tower Theater in May. Sunday's screening at the Manuel Artime
Theater was sponsored by the city of Miami and open to the public at no

Mayor Tomás Regalado said he saw the documentary in Madrid while on a
commercial mission with City Commissioner Frank Carollo, and was
``highly impressed.''

The 90-minute film, filmed clandestinely on the island in December 2008
and August 2009, documents the humanitarian work of Biscet, a pro-life
Christian physician, as well as lesser-known facts about his life and
his career. Biscet, 48, was sentenced to prison in 2003 for his
human-rights activities.

In 1997, Biscet created the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, which
released a study on the indiscriminate practice of abortion in Cuba.

Allott interviewed Biscet's wife, Elsa Morejón, and other dissidents
including Oswaldo Payá Sariñas. He said his goal was to raise public
awareness about the plights of Biscet -- who at times has been in
solitary confinement and punishment cells -- and other prisoners of

But his emphasis is on engaging those of non-Cuban ancestry who have not
heard about conditions in 21st Century Cuba.

In a May interview with El Nuevo Herald from Havana, Morejón said: ``My
husband is in a severe prison . . . and in conditions that are
inconsistent with his health, because he suffers from hypertension,
ulcers, and has lost some teeth.''

Angel Cuadra, a former political prisoner who heads the Pen Club of
Cuban Writers in Exile, attended the screening Sunday. He said the film
objectively captured details of Biscet's life intertwined with what is
happening today.

Besides, he said, ``it exposes the regime's repression against citizens
who disagree with official politics.''

One of the early scenes shows Morejón putting together the jaba, a bag
of food relatives are allowed to take to the prison every two months.
She uses her ration allotments or buys food on the highly expensive
black market.

``This is one of the saddest tragedies the relatives of political
prisoners go through,'' said Cuadra.

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