Oración para Marilyn Monroe

Curator's Note

I know little about this short film. Marisol Trujillo (1946-2019) was described in an obituary as a forgotten woman cineaste (Cibercuba 2019). She made three short films for the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), where she worked for the remainder of her life. Michael Chanan gave a brief description of Oración in his Cuban Cinema (2004: 414). Michael is also the source of the file of the film linked here, taken from an off-air recording during the 1984 season of Latin American film he curated for Channel 4 television in the UK. Ernesto Cardenal is far better known: the Nicaraguan poet and priest (I’m not sure whether it is his voice we hear reading the titular poem). The film is a montage of footage and stills, many of them abandoned when the US was driven out of Cuba by the revolution, others gathered from intercultural exchanges between ICAIC and similar organisations under Castro’s internationalist agenda. It opens with press shots of Monroe, including her marriages to all-American hero Joe DiMaggio and dramatist Arthur Miller (leading to accusations she, like him, was a Communist sympathizer). Cardenal was an active supporter of the Cuban-backed Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. The film will end with footage from US imperialist wars, culminating in that great figure of revolutionary hope, a child smiling, to the strains of William Blake’s Jerusalem.

In between, Trujillo treats her found footage and photographs to zooms and pans, reframing, stretching, and leaching the color from iconic shots such as her centerfold spread in Playboy. Transitions equate her suffering with the sufferings of child victims of imperialism. Cardenal’s prayer reads her gradual breakdown under studio and press pressure as martyrdom: Trujillo’s selections and editing reinforce that reading. The money-lenders that Christ whipped from the Temple are the executives of Twentieth Century Fox. And Monroe? The emblem of empire’s cinema. – of everything Trujillo’s film is not – she is, in Trujillo’s film, a woman, a victim. The film is in solidarity with her, trapped by the mask of make-up, seen through by the lens of liberation theology,. If you wish to understand the phenomenal success of Mattel’s Barbie dolls, you have to understand the construction of Monroe as Marilyn. If you want to understand Warners’ 2023 film of Barbie, watch Trujillo unbuild in eight minutes the construct of 1960s femininity and understand why the Barbie movie is such a tragic failure.



Chanan, Michael (2004). Cuban Cinema. Second edition. London: Bloomsbury.

Cibercuba (2019). Fallece la cineasta cubana Marisol Trujillo, autora del documental “Mujer ante el espejo”. Cibercuba 28/05/2019. https://www.cibercuba.com/noticias/2019-05-28-u80279-e80279-s27315-fallece-recordada-cineasta-cubana-marisol-trujillo-mujer

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