by Johanna Gross
Catherine Murphy made her directing debut with Maestra, a film shown Thursday, Oct. 8 in Shirley Recital Hall at 7:30 pm at Salem College. The show received a moderate crowd and was followed by an interactive question and answer session between Murphy and the audience. After the first few questions, Murphy and the audience discussed their thoughts about her documentary.
Made in 2012, the film focused on the Literacy Campaign that occurred in Cuba in 1961, specifically the young women that participated. The Campaign, initiated by Fidel Castro, invited the literate of the country to teach the illiterate, numbered at 700,000 people at the time. In response, 200,000 people answered the call. Over 100,000 were under the age of 18 and more than half were women. With only two weeks of training, the teachers were sent out on their assignments. Most were sent to rural areas to teach farmers and field laborers while working alongside their students during the day.
Murphy says that it was the thought of people helping one another out that inspired her to make the documentary. She cited the example of the youngest teacher being only seven years old as a discovery that amazed her.
Murphy says she focused on the teenage girls who went because it “radically changed gender norms.” Beforehand, young women were often not allowed to even leave their homes without an escort. Throughout the making of this film, she discovered the extent how global illiteracy with nearly 800 million illiterate adults.
For more information on the film such as how to purchase a copy, visit the film’s website, www.maestrathefilm.org.