Retrato De Teresa - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(Portrait of Teresa)

Cuba, 1979

Director: Pastor Vega

Production: Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC); color, 35mm. Released 1979. Filmed in Cuba.

Screenplay: Ambrosio Fornet.

Cast: Adolfo Llauradó ( Ramón ); Daisy Granados ( Teresa ).



Chanan, Michael, The Cuban Image , London, 1985.

Burton, Julianne, editor, Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: Conversations with Filmmakers , Austin, Texas, 1986.


Ranvaud, Don, "Pastor Vega: An Interview," in Framework (London), Spring 1979.

Moskowitz, G., in Variety (New York), 5 September 1979.

Segers, F., in Variety (New York), 7 November 1979.

Peyton, P., and C. Broullon, " Portrait of Teresa : An Interview with Pastor Vega and Daisy Granados," in Cineaste (New York), no. 1, 1979–80.

Randall, M., " Portrait of Teresa : A Letter from Havana," in Cineaste (New York), no. 1, 1979–80.

Gonzalea Acosta, A., "Con Teresa, punto y seguido . . . ," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 97, 1980.

Rich, B., " Portrait of Teresa : Double Day, Double Standard," in Jump Cut (Chicago), May 1980.

Allen, Tom, in Film Comment (New York), vol. 17, May-June 1981.

Coleman, John, " Portrait of Teresa ," in New Statesman , vol. 101, 5 June 1981.

Prieto, L., " Retrato de Teresa : De la realidad a la ficcion," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 98, 1981.

Burton, Julianne, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1981.

Imeson, J., in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1981.

Ahlander, R. Centenari, interview with Daisy Granados, in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 24, no. 5, 1982.

Retrato de Teresa
Retrato de Teresa

Interview with Pastor Vega, in Casablanca (Madrid), October 1982.

Film Library Quarterly (New York), vol. 16, no. 4, 1983.

Gonzalez, J. A., "Retrato de Daisy Granados," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 104, 1983.

Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 198, 1984.

* * *

The most polemical film in the history of Cuban cinema, Portrait of Teresa was seen by 500,000 spectators in less than two months and has been the focus of more than two dozen articles and the subject of innumerable marital discussions on the island. The reason for such controversy lies not in the form utilized by the film (it resembles an undistinguished "made-for-TV" movie), but in its content: a critique of machismo and its double standard for men and women. Ramón objects to Teresa's growing involvement in her work and politico-cultural activities, accusing her of neglecting her household duties. Despite the fact that they both work full-time, Teresa has to labour the familiar "double-day" of women, doing the domestic chores before and after her shift in a textile factory. Her attempts to incorporate herself into some of the cultural activities offered by the revolution are met by Ramón's increasingly intransigent defense of his male privileges, and they separate.

The film is a criticism to the "Law of the Funnel" ("Ley del embudo"), under which a different set of rules apply for men than for women. Impelled by its female integrants, the Cuban revolution has made great efforts to overcome the traditional subservience of women, insisting on a coherence of theory and practice and the integration of political principles into daily life. In the film's pivotal scene, Teresa confronts Ramón's assertion that he has changed (and thus wants her to return to him) by asking him how he would feel if she had had a relationship with someone else, as he did. His answer, "It's not the same," confirms her suspicion that he continues to maintain a double standard, and determines her decision to remain separated from him.

The leading actors spent much time and effort familiarizing themselves with the lives of the workers they were to represent, and were caught up in the controversy that swept Cuba after the release of the film. Daisy Granados (Teresa) saw it as an issue of the Cuban revolution: "I think that we women still make too many concessions to men. However, Teresa is no feminist symbol, but the conclusive proof that a new type of human being is arising among us. The revolution needs Teresa, because she is a symbol to all of us who believe that the revolution is a constant and permanent advance toward a superior and more complex person." Adolfo Llauradó (Ramón) saw it somewhat differently: "I've grown, and I think that intellectually I'm totally in agreement with women's equality. I understand Teresa's necessities and aspirations, but when they clash with patterns and customs established throughout millenniums, I can't deny that, like Ramón, it disturbs me."

The Cuban revolution has consistently struggled against machismo and its repressive patters, among other things, by explicitly legislating against a double sexual morality and by requiring men to share in the housework. However, the profundity of male-dominance is perhaps nowhere expressed more ironically than in the fact that, although both the director and scriptwriter see themselves as battling against "paternalism," no women were included at decision-making levels in the film. Portrait of Teresa is a useful film, though hardly a radical one. The fact that it provoked such controversy in Cuba is indicative of how far we all have to go.

—John Mraz

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