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Published on Jul 23, 2012
DISSIDENT: OSWALDO PAYÁ AND THE VARELA PROJECT was shot in August 2002 in Havana, Cuba. The film is a rare look at the life and challenges of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá and his groundbreaking Varela Project, the Cuban civic movement that calls for a national referendum on democratic reforms. Payá, who, along with his small group of activists, has been threatened, followed and harassed since the project picked up speed one year ago, has vowed to persist until the Cuban people are granted a referendum, which is guaranteed by the Cuban constitution.
The story of Payá and the Varela Project is told through an intimate interview with Mr. Payá, at his home in Havana, never-before-seen footage from his personal archives, vérité scenes with Payá and his activists as they plan for a massive petition drive and moving conversations with Cubans who dared to sign the petition.
The film was first shown in Payá's absence on September 30, 2002 to a group of 800 Latin American leaders and US Congresspeople in Washington, DC. It has also been shown on Capitol Hill and in front of the Spanish Parliament and the European Community. The film made its big screen debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and continues to show at human rights events around the world.
In April 2003 the Cuban government cracked down on the country's dissidents, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of over 75 innocent people, including several of the people who appeared in this film. Payá, who remains under surveillance but out of jail, has vowed to continue to press for democratic reforms in Cuba.