Tania Libre. 2017. USA. Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson. Courtesy of the filmmaker

Following its successful premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, MoMA presents a weeklong theatrical run of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Tania Libre (2017). Hershman Leeson’s documentary centers on the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who, in late 2014, in the weeks following Raul Castro’s and Barack Obama’s public commitments to renew diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US, was repeatedly questioned and placed under house arrest by the Castro government for staging a “treasonous” art performance in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution. An international outpouring of support helped bring about Bruguera’s release, but other Cuban artists, dissidents, and journalists still remain in prison for subversive acts both real and imagined.

So much of Tania Bruguera’s art and activism has been a response to living under a repressive dictatorship. Tania Libre approaches this subject in a fascinating and novel way, following a therapy session in which Bruguera and Dr. Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in the study of post-traumatic stress, explore the psychological and physical effects of her interrogations and her family past. In Hershman Leeson—whose work is in MoMA’s collection and who was recently awarded the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award at the San Francisco Film Festival—Bruguera has found a portraitist who has dedicated more than four decades of radically innovative filmmaking and art to issues of identity, memory, surveillance, and censorship. On May 18, Robyn Hullihan, Interim Executive Director of the Trust for Trauma Journalism, joins Hershman Leeson in introducing the opening-night screening of Tania Libre.

Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film.

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