This week I talked with director and fierce LGBT ally Jon Alpert about his new HBO documentary Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution which follows the crusade of Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter and Fidel Castro’s niece, to establish LGBT equality in Cuba. This must-see documentary also examines the cultural and institutional homophobia that gay men faced throughout much of the Cuban Revolution when they were often put into work camps. Mariela Castro is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana and a fierce activist for LGBT rights in Cuba. The documentary chronicles her travels across the country bringing her message of diversity to a new more progressive Cuba. The film introduces a variety of gay, lesbian and transgender Cubans who tell their moving stories in the weeks leading up to a celebratory Gala Against Homophobia and Transphobia. I talked to Jon about what inspired him to take on this crucial fight and what he hopes to accomplish with Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution as well as his spin on our LGBT issues.
In these difficult times LGBTQ teens are still four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers after facing bullying incidents. When asked what advise he has for these kids Alpert stated:
I’d like to point out that one of the reasons why Mariela Castro began her involvement in the LGBT rights movement in Cuba was because a number of her friends committed suicide. Their parents had basically told these kids that they’d rather have a dead son than a gay son and it was very personal to Mariela at that point and is one of the reasons why she undertook the campaign she’s working on. We see these difficulties every day here in New York City. We do a lot of work with high school kids. We have 200 high school kids in a program that teaches them filmmaking skills and helps them tell their stories. In many cases it’s kids that are dealing with difficulties in their own families, difficulties with acceptance in schools and community and when we put cameras in their hands and give them the power to tell their own stories it makes them stronger, makes them resilient, helps educate people, so we’re dealing every single day in New York City and we’re using filmmaking to empower people and make their lives better.
Jon Alpert has produced and directed dozens of acclaimed documentaries winning 16 Emmy Awards. Over a hundred of his reports and documentaries from across the United States and around the world have been broadcast on HBO, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, ESPN, Canadian and Japanese networks. Alpert is the Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director of the Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), the oldest and most honored non-profit community media arts center in the country that’s located in a landmark Tribeca firehouse in New York City. Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution was directed and produced by Alpert with producer Saul Landau, associate producer Rosalino Ramos, Cuban producer and additional camera Roberto Chile, editor David Meneses and consulting producer Matthew O’Neill. For HBO senior producer Sara Bernstein and executive producer Sheila Nevins. Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution premiers on HBO on Monday November 28th at 9P.