Yoani’s Trip (2016)

In 2013, a change to Cuban passport laws enabled the controversial blogger Yoani Sánchez to leave her country for a trip abroad – she had previously been rejected 20 times for an exit permit. This documentary by Peppe Siffredi and Raphael Bottino follows Sánchez on a February 2013 trip to Brazil, where she is greeted with a mix of praise and hostility.

While Sánchez’s schedule is packed with media interviews and guest appearances at special events, she is constantly shadowed by angry protestors that call her a traitor to her country and the spirit of the Castro revolution. Sánchez appears to be mostly amused by her detractors – it is never entirely clear who is organizing their efforts – and her presence in Brazil is overwhelmingly greeted with positive feedback from the reporters, government officials and students she encounters.

While the film offers disturbing insight on the extreme measures used the Cuban government to censor and limit Internet access among its people, Sánchez’s power as a writer is presented mostly by reputation than substance. Relatively little of the writing from her famous Generation Y blog is offered to the viewer. And what is presented – a relatively mild and vaguely academic criticism of the Castro regime and an inventory of the problems facing Cubans – seems rather tame by the roughhouse standards of American blogging.

Oddly, at 70 minutes the film feels a bit flabby – some tighter editing would have made it more effective. But as a consideration on the continued lack of free expression in Cuba, this production is a welcome arrival.