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The last of her kind, Gricel regales Cuban cigar-rollers with readings and good humour

Part of a Cuban tradition dating back to the 19th century, the lector de tabaqueria is tasked with reading to entertain the workers, or rollers, in cigar factories. But with radio and television increasingly filling the noise void above the rustle of rolling papers, this unique job is on the verge of being automated away. This short documentary from the Bulgarian-born director Yulia Piskuliyska captures Gricel Valdés-Lombillo Pérez, one of the last remaining lectoras, at work in a cigar factory in Havana. Flanked by a painting of Fidel Castro and a bust of the Cuban national hero Jose Martí, the charismatic Gricel regales her audience with a magazine article on the many wonders of onions, and a fanciful parable on the value of hard work. Between readings, she joins the workers on the floor, chatting, joking and testing the product. Captured with a skilful observational touch, the resulting short film is a charming and intriguing slice of Cuban life, labour and culture.

Director: Yulia Piskuliyska

Producer: Leonardo Rego

21 December 2020

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