After decades of persecution and neglect, Cuba’s LGBT community finds itself in the midst of a new struggle – the fight for equality. The leader of this uprising is Mariela Castro, charismatic daughter of President Raul Castro and a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, who uses her passion and pedigree to promote acceptance in the face of prejudice.
MARIELA CASTRO’S MARCH: CUBA’S LGBT REVOLUTION follows Castro and her LGBT supporters as they spread their universal message of equality across the country when it debuts MONDAY, NOV. 28 (9:00-9:40 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO. Directed by Jon Alpert (HBO’s Emmy(R)-winning “Baghdad ER”), the documentary spotlights gay, lesbian and trans activists through revealing stories of pain, love, strength and perseverance, all told against a rapidly changing social and political backdrop.
Other HBO playdates: Nov. 30 (3:05 a.m.) and Dec. 2 (1:00 p.m.), 4 (6:45 a.m.), 6 (5:00 p.m.), 9 (11:30 a.m.), 14 (11:30 p.m.) and 17 (5:10 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Dec. 1 (9:30 p.m.), 20 (3:45 a.m.), 24 (11:05 a.m.) and 26 (1:00 a.m.)
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.
The debut of MARIELA CASTRO’S MARCH: CUBA’S LGBT REVOLUTION will be preceded at 8:00 p.m. by the debut of “Patria o Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death,” which looks at the state of the country today through the eyes of its artists, activists, bloggers, writers, musicians and everyday people, who live amidst political unrest and economic inequality.
An advocate for recent legislative and social LGBT reforms, Mariela Castro travels tirelessly across the country to bring her message of diversity to a new, more progressive Cuba. The documentary introduces a variety of gay, lesbian and transgender Cubans who tell their stories in the weeks leading up to a celebratory Gala Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Luis, who realized he was gay at age 12, a few years before Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. During the revolution, Luis was summoned for military service, but ended up being sent to Military Units to Aid Protection (UMAP), a state-run labor camp for suspected homosexuals and others deemed unfit for government duty. Says Luis, “I had been carefree with bright, shiny eyes. The camp changed that… This branded me my whole life.” Decades later, he meets with an LGBT-friendly church-support group to reconcile his past hardships with the newfound relief of a burgeoning Cuban gay-rights movement.
Juani, a trans man who became “the happiest man in the world” after receiving long-awaited support from his family and undergoing successful sexual-reassignment surgery. Juani’s brother, Santi, admits he used to be homophobic, burning his then-sister’s male clothing. “I rejected you because I didn’t understand,” Santi tells his brother. “I beg your forgiveness.”
Margarita, once a rising star on the Cuban national tennis team, who remembers using the sport as a way to escape her violent home life, sometimes training on the courts for nine hours a day. When coaches and teammates suspected she was a lesbian, Margarita was kicked off of the team and stripped of her right to play competitive tennis. “They ruined my life,” she recalls. Years later, Margarita is engaged to her partner of ten years, and has directed her passion and time towards activism. “We have rights as human beings,” she says. “The right to live together… to have or adopt children. We want those rights to be recognized.”
Mariela Castro, the public face of Cuba’s LGBT revolution, providing funding, publicity and a political voice for the cause. Herself straight, she realized that “everyone should be free to be who they are” after the suicide of a gay childhood friend. Today, Castro stands on the front lines of protests, conducts interviews with activists and opponents of LGBT rights, and spreads her message in the National Assembly, in numerous TV appearances, and as host of the annual Gala Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana.
An internationally renowned women’s right champion, Mariela Castro is a Cuban parliamentarian and the daughter of President Raul Castro, as well as the niece of former President Fidel Castro. She serves as the director of CENESEX, the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, is president of the National Commission for Treatment of Disturbances of Gender Identity, and is a member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing, Confronting, and Combatting AIDS and an exclusive member of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). Castro is director of the journal Sexology and Society (Sexologia y Sociedad) and has a degree in pedagogy and psychology from the Higher Institute of Pedagogical Sciences “Enrique Jose Varona” in Havana.
MARIELA CASTRO’S MARCH: CUBA’S LGBT REVOLUTION was directed by Jon Alpert; producers, Saul Landau and Jon Alpert; associate producer, Rosalino Ramos; Cuban producer and additional camera, Roberto Chile; editor, David Meneses; consulting producer, Matthew O’Neill. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer Sheila Nevins.