Cuba: Living Between Hurricanes proves you don’t need a high budget to produce an informative documentary. Just point and shoot and tell your story.
The film focuses on Caibarien, a port along the coast of Cuba, telling through this one location, the history of climate change in Cuba. It is a disaster intrinsically linked to colonialism, racism, and the capitalist cycle of exploitation and consumption.
From its founding, Cuba was established as a project of resource extraction to meet the ambitions of Europe’s capitalist class. The slaves settled on the island were kept in a state of unending labour in an economy that was never geared around their needs. This meant all the decisions about the island were not made about what was best for the island, or its people, but the whims of rich, white people a world away. A dynamic I wish I could say died in the past.
But that meant the crops it grew, how the soil was treated, how the forests were managed, was all decided based on what was best for making money for the colonial power. As a result, you have deforestation, the mass cultivation of a single export crop, like sugar or coffee or tobacco, and the land becomes open, flat, and ecologically precarious. So the impact of hurricanes ceased to be an issue for those out on the seas, but spread inland, devastating the whole economy of the island.
Even as these overt systems like slavery and colonial control are dismantled, the power dynamics remain. Modern economic markets such as tourism replicate this, with the caprices of white Europeans catered to by the native populace, providing a playground of luxurious indulgence while the needs of country’s people and environment takes a backseat.
The story in Caibarien is the story globally, that environmental life-sustaining systems were deprioritised consistently until eventually its results became unignorable. Hurricanes became more and more intense, coming with devastating frequency. Other effects like droughts followed by floods also became regular in their appearance.
The challenge of how to tackle this is one that is being positively engaged with by the Cuban government, but it remains an ongoing problem. Climate change requires such a major change in global economics that it’s limited what small island nation can do by itself. Still, moves towards more environmentally conscious practice in all industries, including eco-tourism, are already having local impacts.
Really interesting documentary exploring Cuba’s past and present through the lens of environmental damage and restoration.