The title of this video essay, “I Feel, Therefore I Can Be Free,” is taken from Audre Lorde’s “Poetry Is Not a Luxury.”1 Lorde’s notion of the erotic and Sylvia Wynter’s deciphering practice guide my analysis of Sara Gomez’s groundbreaking feature film De Cierta Manera (1974).2 I create a conversation between black diasporic, Caribbean feminists to understand the first feature film directed by an Afro-Cuban woman. A central question is: how might Gomez’s profoundly feminist film, one that is also anchored in blackness, converse with two black Caribbean thinkers, both concerned with liberation from western “modernities”? Putting these three women in conversation elucidates an understanding of De Cierta Manera that is less concerned with a male-centered machismo than with the tenderness that emerges from encounters with and through difference.
I encourage the viewer to “feel their way” through the video.3 The relative silences and the visual and audio pauses give space to decipher the relationships between Yolanda and Mario (the film’s protagonists) and Audre Lorde’s words. Slowing down and repeating key moments in the film offer the time to reflect on the glances and the gestures of the characters. I explore an intimacy that differs from the ways that the film has been typically understood. More than focusing on the revolutionary rhetorics associated with Fidelismo, the video examines revolutionary possibilities of the romantic relationship between Yolanda and Mario. Instead of concentrating on the film’s own critique of Mario’s machismo and Yolanda’s bourgeois background, I underscore the possibilities that arise as the two protagonists “identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference.”4
- Nzingha Kendall
1. Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984), 38.
2. Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” in Sister Outsider, 53-59; Wynter, Sylvia. “Rethinking ‘Aesthetics’: Notes Towards a Deciphering Practice,” in Ex-Iles: Essays on Caribbean Cinema, edited by Mbye Cham (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1992), 237-79.
3. Sara Ahmed, “Feel Your Way,” in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (New York: Routledge, 2004), 1-19.
4. Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” in Sister Outsider, 123.