A small, but eager audience at Brooklyn College’s Woody Tanger Auditorium viewed “The Power of the Weak,” last Thursday, as part of a film tour for the movie, sponsored by the Women’s Press Collective.
“Power of the Weak,” a documentary from independent German filmmaker Tobias Kriele, shares the inspiring story of Jorge “Jorgito” Jerez, a young man born in Cuba with infant cerebral palsy, and the accomplishments he achieved with the help of his family, his friends and the Cuban healthcare system. The film praises the Cuban healthcare system for its ability to provide Jerez, and many other special-needs children like him, the care that he needs to succeed in society. With Cuba’s emphasis on “putting its people before everything else,” Jerez is provided therapy, medication, a specialized doctor and a school aid at no cost to him or his family.
It’s easy to disregard Jerez from his involuntary movements and mannerisms, but when he speaks, he is very articulate and profound, bringing to tears those around him for his self-righteousness and his advocacy, especially for the release of the Cuban Five.
Jerez was born during the “special time” in Cuba, a period in the mid 1990s when Cuba was suffering from an extended economic crisis caused by the dissolution of their longtime trading partner, the U.S.S.R., and the sanctions on Cuba by the United States. During this difficult economic time; however, Cuba had continued to assist Jerez, providing him with the same level of care they had always provided. With this care, it allowed Jerez to pursue a career in chess, play baseball and go to college, where he majors in journalism, because as he puts it, “As a lawyer, you defend an individual. As a journalist you defend society as a whole.”
As the lights turned on and the applause settled, the director rose for a short Q&A with the audience. Jerez intended to appear there himself to answer questions, but unfortunately his appeal to the U.S. Embassy in Havana to travel to the U.S. was met with no response. The representative from the Women’s Press Collective remarked that they were “respond[ing] through their silence.”
Kriele shared his own personal history of living in Cuba and his experience with filmmaking. Kriele originally met Jerez at a televised government event. He was so swayed by Jerez’s response to a question on how the government had supported him that he immediately approached him to make a documentary on him. After recognizing Mr. Kriele as the director of “Sugar and Salt,” another film that debuted in Cuba, Jerez agreed to do it.
Kriele stated deep respect for Cuba’s health and education system. He himself stated that he has a lot to owe it after he studied there for a PhD in philosophy and has seen firsthand how Cuba treats its citizens.
“For example, if there is something like dengue fever in the neighborhood, [doctors and nurses] come every third, second, or every day, depends how intense,” said Kriele. “So they come and see you, they ask you whether you feel okay, if you have some fever. The idea is that for every 100 families there is a doctor. They’re not working in the hospital, they’re working in the neighborhood. They not only cure these people, but they give advice.”
Kriele was quick to correct an attendee’s question on the director’s intention for the film, emphasizing that he did not create the film as a critique to the American Healthcare system, but rather a look into Cuba’s revolutionary healthcare system for its people.
“I’m not sending messages, I just made the movie,” said Kriele. “Maybe someone would think, ‘although I don’t agree with everything Jorgito says, but I will respect what Cuba did, Jerez for example, about health and education for someone.’”
Kriele’s entire film tour is self-funded from donations and a sponsorship from the Women’s Press Collective. He plans on touring other parts of the United States, from California back to New York, to show his film and share Jorgito’s story and Cuba’s ability to take care of its own people.