Looking Up: Hollywood and Revolutionary Cuban Nationalism
This introduction establishes the book’s key arguments and their contributions to scholarship on US Empire, Cuban history, Hollywood abroad, and film reception. To better understand the 1959 Cuban Revolution, it turns our focus from Fidel Castro to broader and longer cultural processes, particularly here to the ways that Hollywood was used to foment revolutionary Cuban nationalism for decades. Towards exploring this phenomenon, it characterizes Havana theaters, film columns, fanzines, and the film business community as “contact zones,” a term used by scholars to describe sites of foreign-local interaction where US power is wielded strongly but unstably, and is subject to negotiation and adaptation. It argues for a rethinking of the “Americanization” that Hollywood affects abroad, namely that Hollywood can subvert US interests by offering compelling critiques of the American Way and by stoking desire for the sort of national sovereignty, democracy, and prosperity that imperialist US foreign policy often stymies. Hollywood in Havana reasserts the role of leftist filmmakers in representing the American Way abroad and contributes to our understanding of the ways that audiences and (intentionally political) critics interpret films, and the ways that interpretations are shaped by, and used to shape, local context and viewers’ social identities.
Keywords: Cuban national identity, democratic idealism, masculinity, Hollywood, film reception, Americanization, anti-imperialism, national audience, cultural imperialism, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
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