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A film by Catherine Murphy
US, 2012, 33 minutes, Color, DVD, Spanish, English subtitles
Order No. W141121
In 1961, over 250,000 Cubans joined their country’s National Literacy Campaign and taught more than 707,000 other Cubans to read and write. Almost half of these volunteer teachers were under 18. More than half were women.

Narrated by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, MAESTRA (Spanish for teacher) explores the experiences of nine of the women who, as young girls, helped eradicate Cuban illiteracy within one year. Interweaving recent interviews, archival footage, and campaign photos, this lively documentary includes one of the first Cubans of her generation to call herself a feminist and one of the first openly proud members of Cuba’s LGBT community. With wit and spirit, all recall negotiating for autonomy and independence in a culture still bound by patriarchal structures.

Eight years in the making, MAESTRA highlights the will and courage that made the monumental endeavor possible and the pivotal role of women’s and youth empowerment in building a new society.


Black Maria Film Festival, winner Director's Choice Award
Indie Fest, Winner, Best Woman Filmmaker Award
Ojai Film Festival, Honorable Mention

  • Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
  • San Francisco Latino Film Festival
  • Bahamas International Festival
  • African Diaspora International Film Festival
  • New Orleans African Film & Arts Festival
  • San Francisco Documentary Festival
  • Vermont International Film Festival
  • LA Femme Film Festival
  • Raindance Film Festival, London
  • Traverse City Film Festival
  • Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles
  • Muestra Itinerante de Cine del Caribe (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Costa Rica, Aruba, Panamá)
  • Festival de Cine Cubano in Florence, Italy
  • Festival de Cine Pobre. Gibara, Cuba
  • Central Wisconsin Film Festival
  • AFI Silver/DC Caribbean Film Fest
  • Panama Festival
  • Havana Film Festival in New York
  • Festival ICARO, Guatemala
  • Mumbai Womens International Film Festival
  • San Diego Black Film Festival

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    “Highly recommended for all audiences; perfect for a classroom setting with ample time for discussion."
    Christine Rigda
    Library Journal

    "This film brought tears to my eyes. It is beautiful."
    Alice Walker
    Writer, Peacemaker, Pulitzer Prize Winner

    "Catherine Murphy has created a project with rare and intimate access....Her film will preserve the oral histories of a generation that will soon be gone. The historical significance of this archive -and its lessons for the present- cannot be overstated."
    Howard Zinn
    Historian and Author

    “’MAESTRA is a compelling and beautifully filmed reconstruction of one of the most significant campaigns in Cuban history.”
    NACLA Report on the Americas

    "This film will make a significant contribution to our understanding of our neighbor nation of Cuba -as well as literacy itself- and serve as an important tool in the struggle for justice."
    Dolores Huerta
    Co-founder, United Farm Workers & President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation

    "Catherine Murphy's project rescues the most important literacy experience in the Americas. The result, I am certain, will rise to the challenge."
    Eduardo Galeano
    Uruguayan Writer & Journalist

    "'MAESTRA’ is a celebration of the joy of teaching and learning despite all obstacles."
    Progreso Weekly

    “[T]his excellent documentary artfully… examines the campaign’s effect on women and how it enabled them to challenge traditional gender norms… the film is an excellent addition to any syllabus on the Cuban Revolution as well as on revolutionary transformation and revolutionary societies generally.”
    The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History

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    Maestra is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us