BIG EARS

Tierra Sagrada (Sacred Ground)

Tierra Sagrada (Sacred Ground)

2022, Directed by Ned Sublette, 124 minutes

Fri   Mar   25   2022 - 2:00 PM UT Downtown Gallery Sat   Mar   26   2022 - 11:00 AM UT Downtown Gallery

Shot in January 2020—the last possible moment before the pandemic—at a series of bembés (spiritual fiestas) and rumbas in west-central Cuba, Tierra Sagrada (Sacred Ground), features powerfully charismatic singers, percussionists, and dancers of Cuba’s profound African-descended religious traditions.

The film’s eleven episodes take us to sacred groves and elaborate altars in Black cultural centers seldom if ever seen on film, in the former sugar-plantation heartland that received massive numbers of captive Africans in the 19th century. Sites include Matanzas’s Barrio La Marina, Sagua La Grande’s Barrio de San Juan, and Jovellanos, Colón, Corralillo, Carlos Rojas, and the sugar-mill barrio of Sitiecito. Among the notable elders who appear are members of the famed rumba group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas: Ana Pérez, Vivian Ramos, and the late Israel Berriel, each filmed at celebrations in their family compounds.

The product of more than thirty years of research on the ground in Cuba, Tierra Sagrada was produced by veteran Cuban music producer / author Ned Sublette and by Latin Grammy-winning producer Caridad Diez. The director of photography was Lily Keber, who made the classic New Orleans music documentaries Bayou Maharajah and Buckjumping.

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