The story of Carmen (Mérimée 1845, Bizet 1875), the (in)famous Gypsy from Spain, is the second most adapted narrative in the history of world cinema with more than eighty global versions officially recognized to date; however, one significant and critical version has been overlooked, the controversial 1991 film María Antonia (Cuba), by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sergio Giral. In this article, I first follow the transatlantic figure of Carmen from Spain to Spanish America, sharing unexpected Creole connections between Cuba and the original works of Carmen that emerged in the course of my research, connections that foreground under-recognized transatlantic dimensions of the foundational trope. I then show how the template of Carmen (a love story that reveals the racial/ethnic and gender stratification in Spain) has been artfully reappropriated, conflated with Afro-Cuban Yoruba-Lucumí/Santería mythology, and in general creolized in postcolonial Cuba in María Antonia. As each Carmen film reworks the narrative of Carmen to fit its particular culture and to critically discuss social inequalities plaguing its society, María Antonia resituates Carmen in urban Havana to expose and protest against gendered and racial inequalities prevalent in postcolonial Cuba. This article highlights the film's feminism, which is inextricably linked to the representation of performance that is fundamental to all versions of Carmen. Revolving around the figure of the racialized female Cuban rumba dancer, María Antonia integrates performance and music (as well as the urban social spaces in which they are presented) as central cinematic devices to expose and protest against social injustices particular to the Caribbean and the Americas.
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Research Article| May 01 2012
Nadia Sophia Sanko; Creolizing Carmen: Reading Performance in María Antonia, Cuba's Overlooked Carmen Adaptation. Camera Obscura 1 May 2012; 27 (1 (79)): 157–191. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-1533475
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