Award-Winning Filmmaker Visits Morgan’s SGJC

By Emily Pelland

Gloria Rolando, a documentary filmmaker of Afro-Cuban heritage, visited Morgan on Monday and Tuesday to screen two of her films and hold a discussion with students.

Rolando focused the conversation Tuesday on identity of Africans descendants in the media, particularly in the United States and the Caribbean.

Because of the structure of society, she said, those of African decent have difficulty connecting to their African history.

There is a common history, and it is essential that students learn history, philosophy, network and learn themselves, said Rolando.
“We need to collaborate more; know each other more,” she said.

Rolando said that talking to grandparents is the best place to start the process of learning about oneself.

Rolando showed a brief clip of her film, “The Jazz in Us,” which is about jazz culture for African-Cubans. The subjects in the film, all Afro-Cubans who spoke Spanish, expressed the importance of jazz music and dance in their lives. Her documentary style welcomed the audience into an intimate conversation about the struggles of race and the joys of music.

In Cuba, Rolando has few resources to make her films and it was not until last year that she had a budget for her films. She relied heavily on donations and emphasized how clearly her vision needed to be before entering the edit room.

“Behind those images [is] a lot of sacrifice,” Rolando said. “I think everything in life is a sacrifice.”

When the filmmaker left Havana to interview subjects in poorer areas of the country, her mother worried about her health and safety.

“Mom,” Rolando said, “if we’re going to die, we’re going to die working.”

The filmmaker emphasized qualities students need to succeed in storytelling.

“It is about passion, dedication, commitment,” she said. “Passion. La pasión.”

After her lecture, she welcomed attendees to appear with her in a group photo.

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