A UK celebration of the 130th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Cuba.

To mark a significant date in the history of the Americas: the first visit of the first Afro-American US President, Barack Obama to Havana, Cuba

Free admission- booking required

Wednesday 27 April – 6pm
@ Bloomsbury Theatre Studio
15 Gordon St, London WC1H 0AH

Seating is very limited, please register via the link below ASAP!


Remembering Sara Gomez A Pioneering AfroCUban Filmmaker
Sara Gómez, Cuba’s First Female Director & First Afro Female Filmmaker in the Americas Photo Courtesy ICAIC


The Other & the Moving Image examines not only the relationship between the moving image and other art forms, but also, and in particular, how the moving image helps to visualize ‘otherness’. The project is about awareness, citizenship and belonging, equality, diversity and inclusion, in the effort to make our natural environment a better place. The Arts are the ideal medium because they bring people together.

The Other & the Moving Image welcomes the screening of Sara Gómez’s film De cierta manera.  In Spanish (No English Subtitles).

Presented in partnership with the ICAIC.

The African Diaspora, the Afro-Question and the Moving Image in the Americas: From the Civil Rights Movement & the Cuban Revolution to Barack Obama, is the inaugural event of The Other & the Moving Image, a project created for UCL Connected Curriculum Liberating the Curriculum (LTC), with the support of UCL Institute of the Americas, MA Film Studies and MA African Studies, in collaboration with the Royal African Society and the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos).

This evening of talks and a film screening will cover a range of issues concerning the definition and nature of the African diaspora and the complexities of the common road to a fairer society. The evening starts with Santiago Álvarez’s video clip NOW !

“In 1965, Santiago Alvarez directed the prototypical Álvarez short, Now. He was probably thinking of this six-minute gem, when once he said, “Give me two photographs, a moviola and some music and I’ll make you a film.”
Using mostly photographs clipped from American magazines such as Life, Álvarez creates a dynamic montage of images in juxtaposition with the lyrics of “Now” sung by Lena Horne to the tune of the Jewish folksong, “Hava Nagila.” The resulting film, Now, which is the exact length of the recorded song, is a remarkable precursor to the music video format, 20 years ahead of its time. Indeed, in presenting a vivid critique of racism in the U.S. and as a call for action, Now stands as a model of the form, far superior to most self aggrandizing music videos. Álvarez was almost certainly influenced by the photomontages of the German communist John Heartfield from the 1920’s and 1930s, but the only film collage work of a marginally left political nature that pre dates Now is that done in Northern California by Bruce Conner and Bruce Baillie. It is very unlikely that Álvarez saw any of those films made by his American contemporaries.

During the opening credits of Now, percussive music sets the beat for an angry defiant statement. The screen is divided into three panels which initially sets up a juxtaposition of an optically printed image of Martin Luther King looking right, apparently confronting a similarly modified photograph of Lyndon B. Johnson, (LBJ) looking left.
A fade to black at the end of the credits is followed by a triptych of the same over exposed photograph of Lena Horne in profile, as she starts to sing on the sound track. This dissolves to another three panel presentation of Lena Horne looking more towards the camera, which in turn dissolves to her face directly addressing the audience, again multiplied three times. The film begins in earnest with photographs of American black protestors, including children being oppressed by white police. The effect is dynamized by zooms from Rodriguez and Fernandez’ rostrum camera and astute editing which is designed to construct a sense of narrative confrontation. The next set of images encourages the viewer to reflect on America’s past. Special effects cause Abraham Lincoln’s head to emerge out of a black child’s eyes, beginning a key thematic motif of how the message of brotherly love initiated by the Constitutional fathers of the United States had gone astray during LBJ’s time in office. The words of the song echo this sentiment, while calling for immediate change:

Now, now, come on let’s get some of that stuff
It’s there for you and me, for every he and she
Just want to do what’s right constitutionally
I went to take a look in my old history book
It’s all there in black and white for all to see
Now, now, now, now, now, now
Everyone should love his brother
People all should love each other …

Perhaps, it is puzzling that a film would be made for Cuban people where English lyrics provide ironic commentary and a rallying cry, since some of the complex sound image juxtapositions in Now’s intellectual montage would be missed by a Spanish speaking audience. But, in North America where Lena Horne’s recording of “Now” was banned, the effect on college audiences and left political groups was profound. Álvarez’ rejuvenation of Soviet montage and pamphleteering inspired films made by San Francisco and Third World Newsreel (who also released his films), while specific effects, like the apparent machine gunning of black holes in white, to produce the film’s title, Now, clearly influenced Jean Luc-Godard, as well as the Argentinians Solanas/Getino in their making of the all important documentary film La hora do los hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces).” Please see Agit-prop Cuban Style Master Montagist Santiago Álvarez  by Peter Rist

The screening is followed by a series of presentations:

Dr Stephen Wilkinson, the Chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba will analyse the historical links between the Civil Rights Movement and the Cuban Revolution by recognizing the pioneering film productions of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) which aimed to visualise otherness, focused on Blackness, Afro diaspora and the history of Slavery.

Barack Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba in almost 90 years. Dr Helen Yaffe -Economic History Fellow at London School of Economics (LSE)- will speak about what this means for the country and its global position moving forward, commenting on Fidel Castro’s book Obama and the Empire. 

Sheila Ruiz is the Director of Film Africa, the Royal African Society’s annual London film festival that celebrates the best African cinema from across the continent and diaspora. Ruiz will refer to this cinematic event, as part of the work developed by The Royal African Society, Britain’s prime Africa organisation.

Professor Ijeoma F. Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa and the Middle East, will refer to the work developed by the UCL Race Equality Steering Group, its aims and objectives.

Professor Kevin C. MacDonald, convener of the UCL MSc/MA African Studies, will give us an overview on the newly created master degree at University College London.

“I said I’d help him in any way I could”: Belafonte and Martin Luther King, backstage at Madison Square Garden. Credit Courtesy of Harry Belafonte


This event is dedicated to my late brother Jorge Eduardo Smith-Mesa, a Cuban historian and journalist, who was a sympathetic protector of Afro-Cuban traditions, a real “defender of freedoms”, of Afro cultural identity and political activism for Blackness and Afro rights not only in Cuba, but also in Africa, in Angola.

Jorge Smith Mesa
Harry Belafonte and Jorge Smith-Mesa/ Havana Film Festival

To mark a significant date in the history of the Americas: the first visit of the first Afro-American US President, Barack Obama to Havana, Cuba, these presentations will be followed by a screening Sara Gómez’s film De cierta manera. Gómez is recognised as Cuba’s First Female Director and first Afro filmmaker in the Americas.

Dr Vladimir Alexander Smith-Mesa Curator