For the first time, U.S. documentary shorts program toured Cuba visiting five towns, organized by the Americas Media Initiative and The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film, March 25 – April 8, 2012

For the first time, a U.S. documentary shorts program toured Cuba. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator at The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film and Alexandra Halkin, Director of the Americas Media Initiative, a Burlington, VT based non-profit that works with Cuban filmmakers. The Cuban organizational counterpart providing the logistical support is the Young Directors Film Festival (Muestra Joven) based in Havana. Ms. Halkin and Ms. Berger will screen the program and engage in Q&A sessions with Cuban audiences in the towns of Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Holguin, Gibara and Havana. The films will be presented at the end of the tour at the Young Directors Film Festival in Havana.

The goal of Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is to screen a selection of U.S. documentary short films that present unique and diverse local U.S. experiences to a wide Cuban audience that has very little information about the U.S. and, through cultural exchange, to increase understanding and foster dialogue between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is made up of four documentary short films and one animation short. Two of the documentaries, Sara Neeson’s Poster Girl (2010), about a young female American vet sent to Iraq who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday’s The Barber of Birmingham (2011), about 85 year old James Armstrong, a foot soldier in the civil rights movement of the 60’s. Both films were nominated for Academy Awards in the Documentary Shorts category. Other films in the program are Jesse Epstein’s Wet Dreams and False Imagesa Sundance award-winning documentary that uses humor to raise serious questions about the commercial marketing of false illusions about female physical perfection, and Anthony Weeks’s Housekeeping, about a migrant hotel housekeeper’s meditation on her life and the lives and habits of the people for whom she works. Miss Devine, directed by the Rauch Brothers, is a short animation based on a StoryCorps conversation between cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson who recall their fearsome Sunday school teacher, Miss Lizzie Devine.

Sally Berger is a film and media curator, lecturer, and writer. Her exhibitions at the Museum explore multiple genres including experimental, documentary, and dramatic narrative film. Berger is director of the annual Documentary Fortnight: MoMA’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film, featuring contemporary trends in nonfiction film/media, founded in 2001.  Alexandra Halkin, is a documentary filmmaker and Founding Director of the Americas Media Initiative—Cuba Media Project. Ms. Halkin, a Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellow, has been working on documentary projects in Cuba for nearly two decades. The Americas Media Initiative—Cuba Media Project is a new organization focused on the distribution of Cuban independent and community media in the United States. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Eastman Foundation.