By Kathy Leonardo
Los Angeles, CA(Hollywood Today)10/9/12/—Independent filmmaker Catherine Murphy has been on a mission. For the past six years she has been consumed with the issue of literacy. Meeting a group of Cuban women while in Havana during the 1990s opened a door to a new passion. Maestra, the film, was born out of a revelation. Compassion, strength, hope, dedication, and love were all traits that the nine women in this film had in common – which they credited in large part to participating in the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961.
Catherine Murphy was raised with a love of Cuba through inspirational stories recounted by her grandmother and great aunt. In the 1990s, Catherine traveled to Cuba and met Daysi Veitia, who was in her early 60s and had been part of a historical social phenomenon in Cuba. As a teenager in 1961, Veitia volunteered to teach reading and writing in the remote Eastern mountain range of Cuba as part of the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961.
Murphy learned that in1961, 250,000 volunteer teachers set out to teach their nation to read as part of the most ambitious literacy campaign in history. Cuba became the first country to eradicate illiteracy, and young people were at the heart of it. Murphy chose to feature women because the families of the female volunteers were not as enthusiastic as the families of male volunteers.
She explains, “When the young women told their families they wanted to go up in the mountains for one year to teach rural people how to read and write, many families absolutely refused. It broke many of the norms for what ‘good women’ were allowed to do in the Cuba of the 1950s. So the young women set out to negotiate participation in the campaign and won an independence for themselves previously unknown to Cuban women.”
She continues, “It was a teenage girl uprising…a before and after moment for Cuban women. In the interviews today, the women repeatedly say it was the first time they felt ‘free, strong, autonomous, and brave.’ And they never looked back. It is a testament to young women changing history.”
Murphy is also the founder of a nonprofit organization known as The Literacy Project. “It was during the process of making this film that I started to research and learn about what a massive unsolved global problem literacy still is…including right here in the United States,” she adds.
Maestra will be screened at the LA Femme International Film Festival on October 13th at 12:00 p.m. The Festival is the biggest women’s festival in the United States and runs from October 11th through October 14th and will be held at Davidson/Valentini Theatre (1125 N McCadden Place, Los Angeles 90038).
LA Femme International Film Festival will screen over one hundred films highlighting independent features, shorts, documentaries, commercials, and music videos.
Susan Sarandon, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, Andie MacDowell, and Chazz Palminteri are just a few of the well known actors who participated in films that are set to be screened in this year’s festival.
PhotographerLiborio Noval back in 1961.