Filmmaker Celebrates Cuban Tradition, Receives Arts Award

There is a 150-year-old tradition of artistic and literary immersion among Cuban torcedores, or cigar rollers that continues to this day. While cutting and rolling cigars, torcedores spend their days listening to rich cultural tales such as "Don Quixote" and "Les Miserables."

Documentary filmmaker Pamela Sporn, a Norwood resident, will highlight this cultural practice in her forthcoming project, "Con El Toque de la Chavetta" ("With the Stroke of the Chavetta").

Sporn places the chavetta, a crescent-shaped blade used by cigar rollers to cut tobacco, at the center of her new project. Chronicling the birth and survival of the Cuban tradition dating back to the 1860s, Sporn hopes to better portray laborers "engaged in thinking, and involved with artistic literature."

Sporn returns to Cuba this month to continue filming her story, which she says is about the "struggles and adversity of laborers."

The project received a boost last month when Sporn learned she was one of 22 Bronx artists receiving a BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Award. Under the program, the Bronx Council of the Arts (BCA) awards each artist a $2,500 grant.

"It’s definitely helpful to continue working on my piece and I’m glad to contribute to the culture of the Bronx," Sporn said.

Awarded her first BRIO award in 1997 for her compilation of work with high school students, Sporn used the funding to finish the critically-acclaimed documentary, "Cuban Roots, Bronx Stories." The film, which features her husband, Paul Foster, and the experiences of his family as Cuban immigrants to the south Bronx in 1962, will be screened in the Bronx Art Bicentennial.

This year, the BCA recognized Sporn with a BRIO for "Recordando El Mamoncillo," or "Remembering the Mamoncillo Tree," a 15-minute documentary about the annual dance at El Club Cubano Interamericano, a Bronx-based Cuban social club. Sporn, who filmed and attended the dance over the last five years, sees the event as a way of "maintaining Cuban culture in the U.S."

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