HBO continues to be the go-to network for truthful, cutting edge programming which puts LGBT lives under a microscope. On Nov. 28 HBO will debut Jon Alpert's “Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution” at 9 p.m.
Castro, 54, is a member of the Cuban Parliament and the director of the Cuban National Center For Sex Education. In Cuba's closed, communist and conservative society, Castro has been a staunch advocate for LGBT equality. “Mariela Castro's March” will no doubt raise many eyebrows among American viewers who might not be aware of the island nation's cultural shift.
As Castro drives around the country, she chats with LGBT people in both urban and rural areas--we meet people from across the LGBT spectrum. Such as Margarita, once a champion player on the Cuban national tennis team. Margarita was kicked off the team for being a lesbian. Now living with her partner of ten years, she is an activist.
We also meet two transgender people who have decidedly different stories to tell. Juani calls himself "the happiest man in the world" because of the gender-reassignment surgery which gave him a fully functioning penis – Juani even shows the scars on his leg where flesh was "borrowed" by surgeons in order to create his appendage. In one of the film's most powerful moments, Juani is embraced by his mom and brother--the brother asks to be forgiven for not accepting Juani when they were younger.
And during one of the film's more disturbing moments, we meet a transgender woman who reveals why she must always wear thick, dark shades--because of acid that was thrown in her face. She endured the attack specifically because of her gender identity.
The film does not shy away from Cuba's inbred homophobia--several ordinary citizens speak on camera as they express their disdain of LGBT lifestyles. But in contrast, a surprising number of Cubans also say that they are fine with it. We also learn more about Castro herself.
In 2014 she voted against an ordinance which would ban employment discrimination against gay men and lesbians because it did not include gender identity--Castro feels that both sexual and gender identity statuses need to be protected. In her world, it's not an either/or issue.
Castro's advocacy has won her the love and admiration of Cuba's LGBT community. We see the community applauding and cheering as Castro steps up to the podium at a rally. In many ways she's become the Cuban equivalent of Harvey Milk as she leads the community out of the closet and on the road to equality--though unlike Milk, Castro is herself a cisgender, heterosexual woman.
“Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution” is an uplifting film about a woman who takes great pride and joy in her work and in her achievements. The film will particularly resonate with American LGBT viewers as the presidency of Donald Trump looms on the horizon. No one ever said that the road to equality would be easy--there will always be bumps in the road.
But as Mariela Castro's March illustrates, eventually we always prevail.
Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT Revolution will air in rotation on various HBO channels for at least a month. It will also be available for online and on-demand viewing. More info: HBO.com/documentaries/mariela-castros-march-cubas-lgbt-revolution