Kisses Yes, Kisses No

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 June 2018 — Dozens of countries around the world celebrate Gay Pride Day today, 49 years after the Stonewall riots in New York, when a violent raid on a bar frequented by the LGTBI community was followed by a series of protests and demonstrations that are taken as a marker for the beginning of the movement for gay rights.

Thousands of marches will be held around the planet today in a celebration of diversity and love with or without government support. In Cuba, where, as a nod to Raulism, things go “without pause but without haste*,” a video clip in which gay and heterosexual couples kissing was shown for the first time on television this week.

Universe, made by Yeandro Tamayo, sets images to the music of the young Yissy García and her group Bandancha, and is the first nationally made video broadcast on a state channel that explicitly addresses love between couples of different sexual orientations.

It includes scenes “that, for many, can be complicated,” affirms Yeandro Tamayo, but he is satisfied that he was able to show the freedom he intended.

The video expresses, through dance and elegant photographic work, the stories of three couples: one between a man and a woman, another between two men and a third between two women. All of the stories, after approaches and caresses, end in a kiss.

“In times like these, when government is defending diversity, I wanted to put it in this video,” he explains in an interview with 14ymedio. He said that the dancers who performed worked without fear of speaking up about “the sexuality of human beings” and the plurality that is shown in the video.

The video is presented on social networks as “a celebration of love, a song of the right to express our feelings, and a critique of short-sightedness and the barriers imposed on us by human beings.”

With not everyone behind him, the director said there is a second version of the video, not yet released, in which the kisses do not happen. Tamayo explained at the press conference that due to the schedule on which the Lucas program is broadcast (five in the afternoon) an alternative was made.

“In the version for the television they are almost on the verge of kissing,” the director told this newspaper.

“As it is not a short film but rather promotional material I made the two versions, because I was afraid that Yissy would not be able to release her video. With this they [TV] are opening up a bit, although they are still very careful [despite the fact that] there is no policy that these images should not be shown,” stresses the director.

“That’s always a rule of thumb, you’re taking your risks, I think it’s the first time that this topic is treated so openly and I can assure you that in the world of the videoclip this is the first time this issue is treated as freely as seen in the video,” he says.

Yeandro Tamayo, who has won numerous Lucas Awards, believes that the video can help promote tolerance towards the LGBT community because “it shows [their relationships] without prejudice, as something natural that is expressed as something free, open.”

Tamayo is optimistic about the fate of Universe and is confident that despite having images that are “difficult” for many it will continue to be shown. “I think the video will remain in theaters because these are times when, even from the Government, there is an interest in promoting tolerant behaviors” towards this community, says the filmmaker, referring to Cenesex (the National Center for Sex Education).

The premiere of the video comes at a time when the government has expressed its decision to carry out a constitutional reform which, among other things, has among its purposes to bring legality “in tune with” reality. From the LGBT community, independent groups have launched proposals ranging from “freedom of association” under the protection of the law, to the “legal recognition of same sex parent families.”

Cuban television has taken great care to show, explicitly, homosexual relations both in its dramatized spaces and in the musical productions made on the Island. The only kiss between a homosexual couple that Cubans have seen on national TV occurred recently, to stupor of many, in the broadcast of a chapter of the Brazilian telenovela Rastros de mentiras (Traces of Lies). The scene, which shows Felix (Thiago Neves) Fragoso and (Niko) Mateus Solano kissing, was shown in Brazil in the 2013-2014 season.

The group Yissy & Bandancha premiered the single Universe last April as a preview of what will be their next album, integrating the voice of Dj Jigüe into the band’s usual sound. In the theme, this group, one of the most representative of the avant-garde of Cuban jazz, delves into the sounds of hip hop and electronic music.

*Translator’s note: “Without pause but without haste” is connonly referenced phrase from a speech by Raul Castro where he was talking about “updating” the Cuban model. 


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