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Cuba: A Lifetime of Passion

A new documentary film from University of Dayton historian Juan Santamarina and alumnus Glenn Gebhard explores Cuba’s difficult past and uncertain future — with a spotlight on the people affected today by the Cuban Revolution.

Cuba: A Lifetime of Passion will broadcast nationwide on PBS starting Oct. 7, ahead of the two-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's actions that reestablished diplomatic relations and opened an embassy in Havana.

The film focuses on the human cost of the Cuban Revolution through interviews with pro-Castro Communists and opponents in Cuba, Cubans “stranded in exile” in Miami, U.S. Department of State personnel, and academics.

“The film tries to humanize — beyond the Cold War, beyond policies, beyond government — what this means for people on all sides: Those who left, those who stayed, those who participated and those who rebelled,” said Santamarina, chair of the department of history. “We tried to capture that humanity without any judgement of who was wrong and right.”

Santamarina and Gebhard, professor at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, gathered hundreds of hours of interviews and footage, including at the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion. They also, for perhaps the first time, filmed the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, which seeks out counter-revolutionaries. The result is a more complex picture — one they say is important for a broader audience.

“It’s really looking at the revolution from both sides of the Florida Straits 57 years after it takes over Cuba,” Gebhard said. “Not taking sides but trying to understand what it was and how it affected people, not just politically but socially too.”

Santamarina and Gebhard, along with professor emeritus Patrick Palermo who served as an advisor, first released the film in 2006. The current version is updated to reflect renewed interest in Cuba brought by Obama’s visit in March.

“We're still a long way from a normal relationship between the governments or the people,” said Santamarina, who was born in Cuba, has relatives living there now and has studied Cuban history for nearly two decades. “Ultimately my hope is the audience sees all sides of the story.”

The film airs in many PBS markets this week, and later this month on ThinkTV, the Dayton PBS channel.


News and Communications Staff