Academic journal article Cuban Studies

Consuming Cubanas: ¿Quién Diablos Es Juliette?

Academic journal article Cuban Studies

Consuming Cubanas: ¿Quién Diablos Es Juliette?

Article excerpt

In 1997, ¿Quién diablos es Juliette?, directed by Argentine-Mexican director, actor, writer, and producer Carlos Marcovich, won the prestigious international prize from the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (International Federation of Film Critics) at the Havana Film Festival. In 1998, it took the Latin American Cinema Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the Grand Prize at both the Ourense Independent Film Festival and the Fribourg International Film Festival, the National Critics Award at the Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize at the Cartagena Film Festival, and the Silver Ariel at the Ariel Awards in Mexico. It was released in Canada, France, Brazil, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, as Cuba mon amour, Quem será Juliette?, Wer zum Teufel ist Juliette?, and Who the Hell Is Juliette?

Produced by Kino Video, and distributed by Macondo Cine and Facets Video in the United States, it has been marketed as a documentary, a fiction documentary, and most tellingly a mockumentary because of the way the characters mock themselves and their different life circumstances. The story is based in Havana but was filmed in Cuba, Mexico, and New York City as it traces interwoven life stories of Cuban and Caribbean, Latin American, and Latina women, shaped by colonial history and a sexist image industry. Marcovich foregrounds how women and geographic sites are rendered interchangeable and expendable, but he also allows for an interpretive possibility through which the ambivalence and multiplicity of meaning and the sexualized representation of poor women's bodies and lives in different international settings might be reviewed.

¿Quién diablos es Juliette? could be read as a provocative text that invites a feminist, historically situated reading. On the one hand, it showcases a series of images that reveal how the media advertise women as objects of desire, always already consumable. On the other hand, it offers a platform from which to examine the parameters through which women in global culture are fuller human beings, in reality resistant to being defined by simplistic narratives of victimhood or unattainable stardom.

The mockumentary is original and important precisely because Yuliet's character is placed in contrast to the reality and filmic imaginings of other women, in different geographic locations and different political settings, sharing comparable survival strategies, in the pivotal decade of the 1990s, when global cultural experiences were being revamped after the demise of the Soviet bloc, not least in Cuba. Framing ambiguities and possibilities against the backdrop of global sex tourism, it serves as a template from which to unravel the incongruities between the representation of women as objects and new interpretations of women as agents, able to shape their own experiences and blur love, desire, and processes of consumption. As such, it can be seen as a filmic forerunner to recent comparative scholarship, such as that of Florence Babb and Amalia Cabezas.1

Taking the mockumentary as an exemplar, and building on existing work, in this article I discuss shifting discourses on sex tourism and jineterismo. Specifically, sex tourism in 1990s Cuba (the verb jinetear, or ''to jockey,'' has become a household word, referring to hustling the tourists, and jinetera is the noun for Cuban women drawn into it-there are also male jineteros, but they were fewer in number and are not under focus here). In my analysis, I situate the fault lines between representation and everyday survival in ¿Quién diablos es Juliette? to fashion a multilayered analysis of the intertwined representations of the documentary's protagonists, including considerations of race and ethnicity.

My point of departure is the argument evinced by Mimi Sheller in Consuming the Caribbean to the effect that ''sex tourism packages Caribbean people as 'embodied commodities' by turning the long history of sexual exploitation of women (and men) under colonial rule into a 'lived colonial fantasy' available for the mass tourist consumer. …

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