Those of us who experienced the furore of Aids epidemic in the early 1990s – a time when the medication was mostly inffective and most of the infected died within a few years of contracting the disease – would equate the virus with suffering and despair. But not for a small group of rockers in Cuba, mostly in the cities of Pinar del Río and Santa Clara. For these people. For them HIV meant a very strange type of freedom.
Director Vladimir Ceballos spontaneously filmed young Cuban rockers in their 20s who had deliberately infected them with the HIV virus through sex or needles between 1990 and 1993. They would even hand out blood amongst themselves as a very morbid and yet valuable gift. Their attitude may sound incomprehensible and insane to most of us, but the interviews help to shed some light on their very unusual logic.
Rockers were highly estigmatised and prosecuted back then. Those who didn work would almost inevitably land in jail or the military service, which as an affront to their liberal ideologies. These people wre so oppressed that they were not even allowed to gather in public areas, a criminal act described as “guerrilla”. So at least 100 young men and women decided to turn to the healthcare system instead, which is internationally recognised for its quality.
These people were locked up in safe havens called “sanatoria”, where they received medical care and attention, and did not have to face police harassment public embarrassment. They could still occasionally go out to see their parents and friends, and that precisely when Ceballos interviewed them. The Cuban government wasn’t very pleased, and the helmer had to flee the country with his controversial footage in 1994, only to return in 2015. Fidel Castro certainly wasn’t with the image of a country painted by Ceballos: a place so oppressive that people choose to embrace a fatal disease.
Freedom through sickness and death is very unusual path that very few people choose to take. These people were failed by both their system but also by nihilistic interpretation of rock music and anarchism. Suicide, particularly through such an agonizing disease, has nothing to do with liberty, but with hopelessness instead. A very glaring symptom of a severely broken youth.
While the quality of the film photography is very poor – due to the technology available then – the images are still very memorable poignant: you will make eye contact with very troubled youths, see the streets of a country empoverished by the Embargo, and even footage from rock parties where people relentlessly shake their mohicans and piercing. Not what most people would expert from Cuba. This is the kind deeply sobering and thought-provoking film that you won see often. A true dirty gem.
Cursed Be Your Name, Liberty is showing as part of the 11th Berlin Porn Film Festival taking place right now – click here for more information about the event. Sadly this is the type of film which is very difficult to catch, but DMovies will be in touch with the director for more. So stay tuned!
Watch the first four minutes of the film below: