Documentary by SCCC Adjunct Joe Guerriero to Air on PBS

Article Posted -- January 27, 2014

WNET Channel 13 to Broadcast Curtain of Water

A new documentary by local filmmaker and photographer Joe Guerriero will air on PBS Channel 13 on Saturday, February 1st at 1:00 p.m. Guerriero is also an adjunct instructor at Sussex County Community College where he teaches photography. The film, Curtain of Water (or Telón de agua), is the Fredon photographer’s personal quest to make sense of the United States’ continuing trade embargo of Cuba. Providing an unprecedented look at both sides of a controversial issue that has affected the lives of both Cuban and American citizens, the film is Guerriero’s first full-length documentary. It took almost three years to complete and contains footage and interviews collected during many trips to Cuba, beginning in 1999.

“My relationship with Cuba started when I traveled there as part of a team of photographers taking part in a professional seminar,” said Guerriero. “On that trip, all of us were immediately overwhelmed by the beauty and uniqueness of the country and its people.” During several more photographic trips to the island nation, as he developed a deep connection to the people he met, Guerriero witnessed first-hand the effects of the embargo, still in force 53 years after the Cuban Revolution. “I came to value and respect the Cuban people, not only for their intelligence and insight, but for their perseverance as well,” he said. “My goal in making this film was to provide a glimpse into their lives for those of us here in the United States. I decided to ask questions on both sides of the water and not settle for the easy answers. I wanted to present ideas from several different perspectives and allow my audience to come to their own conclusions.”

The embargo, known in Cuba as the “bloqueo” or blockade, has long been a source of contention for political and moral reasons. It is seen by some as an outdated act of reprisal and by others as a necessary reaction to signal the U.S. rejection of the Cuban Revolution’s Marxist ideology. In this documentary, Guerriero investigates the reasons for the embargo and tries to identify the opposing interests of the two countries, while showing the effects it has on the everyday lives of the Cuban people. The film presents conversations with Cuban exiles and American activists in the U.S., as well as personal reflections from many living in Cuba, in an effort to shed light on the political and human sides of this conflict.

Guerriero began this project by asking his Cuban contacts to put him in touch with some reliable spokespeople who were experts on the matter. That’s how he met Vicente Echerry, a well-known author and former political prisoner in Cuba, now exiled in the U.S. Having lived on both sides of the conflict, Vicente’s strong opinions show a love for the Cuban people, while still supporting the official U.S. policy. The film also features Sandra Levinson, founder and director of the Center for Cuban Studies (an organization dedicated to educating Americans about Cuban Culture) and Geandy Pavon, an artist who grew up in Cuba and moved to the U.S. with his parents. Guerriero also spent time discussing the effects of the embargo with members of Pastors for Peace, a group that has taken its religious ministry into the realm of politics, trying to help everyday Cubans while voicing opposition to the U.S. policy.

The next step was to create a film from all of the footage, something Guerriero had never done before, despite more than 30 years as a photographer. He utilized the services of to obtain funds for production and travel expenses, and assembled a team to work on the film. The production team included Guerriero’s wife Diana, formerly an editor and now an English teacher at Newton High School; Roberto Francesco Musco, a Spanish teacher and interpreter with years of experience in film production; and Drew Oberholtzer, a professional film editor, whose many credits include the National Geographic Channel series Brain Games. There were many setbacks on the way to completion. On one trip to Cuba, Guerriero’s camera equipment was stolen, while on another, his laptop and recording devices were confiscated at the border, and his equipment was damaged by seawater on the Malecon.

After making the film, Guerriero still feels that there are no easy answers to his search to understand the continuing blockade. “Although I have learned that there are many interests at stake in a conflict born of opposing ideologies, I have also come to the conclusion that there is serious doubt as to whether this embargo serves any constructive purpose for either side,” he said. “But, I am sure that the Cuban people — insightful, resourceful, and anxious to find their way in the world– deserve a chance to succeed, and no government, neither their own, nor mine, has the right to hold them back.”

The film will also be aired on WLIW on Sunday Feb 9 at 11:00pm and WNET on Tuesday Feb 9 at 4:30 am.