Cuban actress Luz Maria Collazo gestures subsequent to a poster of the Russian-Cuban movie “Soy Cuba” (“I Am Cuba”) through which she starred, right through an interview with AFP at her flat in Nuevo Vedado, in Havana, on March 16, 2023. Collazo was once Cuba’s first black mannequin, a famend recent dancer and the unforgettable heroine of the Russian-Cuban movie “I’m Cuba,” thought to be a masterpiece of worldwide cinematography. ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP

HAVANA, Cuba—Luz Maria Collazo was once Cuba’s first black mannequin, a virtuoso of contemporary dance and megastar of the movie “Soy Cuba” (I Am Cuba)—a flop in its time now thought to be a vintage.

Sixty years after it was once filmed, Collazo appears to be like again with combined emotions on a profession of ups and downs marked via racism, revolution and resilience.

Elderly 79, Collazo claims to have a “very unhealthy reminiscence,” which she seeks to refresh with the assistance of envelopes bulging with pictures, exposure posters and mag covers she pulls from drawers in her small Havana condominium.

They’re mementos of a profession introduced right through a creative explosion that adopted the 1959 revolution, in a length of relative liberal expression after many years of a repressive dictatorship.

“I used to be fortunate sufficient to be there right through this era of creative power,” the chic septuagenarian informed AFP.

Born in Santiago de Cuba in 1943 however raised in Havana, Collazo was once 15 when Fidel Castro’s revolution modified the island endlessly.

3 years later, the daughter of a driving force and a housewife determined she sought after to check drama.

“I noticed an advert within the newspaper” to check on the Nationwide Theater, she recalled. Trendy dance was once additionally on be offering, and he or she handed the access examination for each disciplines.

When it got here to the general selection: “I sought after to be an actress however after all it was once dance that seduced me,” stated Collazo, who went directly to have an extended profession as a dancer and trainer with a number of corporations.

Then, in 1963, her existence modified in an opportunity stumble upon with the spouse of Soviet cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky at the streets of Havana.

“I used to move each and every week to get my hair carried out and as I used to be within the espresso store a woman got here up and stated to me: ‘Do you need to make a movie?’ and I stated: ‘Oh sure, after all.’”

Urusevsky was once in Cuba with director Mikhail Kalatozov, recipient of the Palme d’Or on the Cannes Movie Pageant in 1958.

The pair have been entrusted with a joint undertaking of Cuba’s ICAIC movie institute and Soviet studios to honor the friendship between the communist allies.

Too ‘poetic’

“Soy Cuba,” which recounts the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista via Castro and his revolutionaries, was once filmed in black and white over a number of months.

Collazo, who stated she have been refused many different jobs because of systemic racism in Cuba, performed the a part of a deficient younger lady pressured to paintings as a prostitute in casinos.

The film these days is hailed for leading edge filming tactics. But if it was once launched in 1964, it had a chilly reception within the aftermath of the Cuban missile disaster.

Ties between the countries had been frosty after Soviet chief Nikita Khrushchev withdrew nuclear missiles from the island in a care for US President John F. Kennedy, with out consulting Castro.

In Havana, the movie was once seen as too “poetic,” an unrealistic portrayal of the Caribbean island, Collazo recalled.

It was once proven for a brief length earlier than being withdrawn.

The movie additionally proved unpopular within the USSR, and in the US it was once banned on account of its communist origins.

“I used to be upset,” stated Collazo.

Many years later, the movie won a brand new rent on existence after being proven on the Telluride Movie Pageant in Colorado in 1992 in an homage to Kalatozov.

It was once came upon via administrators Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, who actively promoted it.

A restored model of the movie received a prize at Cannes in 2004, and these days it’s studied as a masterpiece of cinematography at movie colleges in Europe and the US.

‘Remarkable on the time’

The movie’s preliminary box-office failure didn’t deter Collazo from pursuing her future.

Years later, she was once once more stopped in the street: this time via Cuban photographer Alberto Korda—writer of the mythical portrait of Che Guevara.

Korda requested her to pose for him.

“It was once remarkable on the time to make a choice a black lady,” stated Collazo, who went directly to have a a hit modeling profession that incorporated having her face on commercials for Cuban rum.

These days, she is full of “disappointment” for the passing years and her precarious scenario in a Cuba fraught with financial hardship.

“I’m very nostalgic having a look at those footage,” sighed Collazo.

“I feel I’ve been fortunate, to were right here and there, to were a mannequin in addition to a dancer.”  /ra


Cuba, Castro, Philippines

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