dir. Sergio Giral, Cuba, 1979, digital video, 80 mins, color, Spanish w/ English subtitles
Set in a slightly ambiguous moment of either the late 18th or early 19th century Cuba, Maluala unambiguously presents the palenques, the historical communities of runaway slaves (cimarrones), hidden by the mountains of the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba and hunted by the Spaniards. Part of Giral’s trio of films including El otro Francisco and Rancheador, in Maluala one distinctly encounters the sacred rituals of the cimarrones, trading amongst each other, and with rogues and pirates who preyed along the Caribbean coastlines while averting the Spanish galleons. The action begins with the Spaniards’ response to a demand by palenque chiefs not only for freedom but also for land, using agents of the Church to argue that the chiefs will be “free” if they come down from the mountains with their people “to work.” Several palenque chiefs respond and choose the notion of freedom being sold to them, thereby re-entering their people into slavery, that freedom without land is not freedom.