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Answer Key for Comprehension Test
and Discussion Questions

Comprehension Test
See a printable version of this test in Microsoft® Word® format suitable to distribute to a class (without suggested answers).
1.  Mr. Sandoval helped organize a band called Iakere to allow him to play jazz without the authorities realizing what he was doing. What was the term that he used to describe what that band needed in order to hide from the authorities that they were playing jazz? Also tell us what elements Mr. Sandoval added to the music of Iakere to do this. Suggested Response: Mr. Sandoval called it camouflage. He added instruments such as African drums and introduced African-like calling back and forth among members of the band.

2.  Why did most of Marianela's friends from work avoid coming to her wedding? Suggested Response: Mr. Sandoval was suspected of being a counterrevolutionary. Mere association with him was dangerous. The Communist party cell that had jurisdiction over the place where Marianela worked would not look kindly on her co-workers associating with her husband.

3.  Before he defected from Cuba Mr. Sandoval said, "I have been in jail all my life." What did he mean by that? Suggested Response: Mr. Sandoval meant that during the period that he lived in Cuba he could not play the music he wanted to play or hear the music he wanted to hear without fear of being put in jail as a counterrevolutionary. Since he was an artist, and driven to play music that served his art, these restrictions were very difficult and ultimately impossible for him to accept.

4.  The Dizzy Gillespie character tells Sandoval that: "You all kept it alive, man. When they dragged us over to America they took our drums, our religion and our language. We had to learn theirs. But the true African heart beats here in Cuba. It is what it was." What is the historical basis for this statement and what irony does it reveal in the development of jazz? The answer to this question counts for two points. Suggested Response: The historical basis for the comment is that the culture that the African slaves brought with them to the New World was ruthlessly suppressed in the American South while it was tolerated in other parts of the Americas. As the Gillespie character says, slaves in the U.S., denied most of their African traditions, had no choice but to take up the religion and music of the whites. In addition, slaves in other parts of the Americans were emancipated long before the slaves in the U.S. At that time they had a better memory of their African traditions. American slaves had to wait until 1865 for their freedom and the time in slavery further distanced them from their African roots. Jazz was an amalgam of influences from European musical traditions and what was left of the African tradition in the United States. By bringing in Afro-Cuban polyrhythms to jazz, Gillespie was introducing a new strain of African influences.

The irony is that the most popular and significant combination of African and European traditions, jazz, was developed in the country which most ruthlessly suppressed African traditions. However, it does make sense because in the other parts of the Americas, the former slaves were able to pursue a purer form of their African traditions and didn't need to mix them with so many European traditions.

5.  Many people believe that Fidel Castro betrayed the promise of the Cuban revolution in a number of ways. Name one of the betrayals that is the basis for this movie. Suggested Response: There are several possible correct answers to this question. It can be said that he did not allow artistic freedom. The answer could refer to severe restrictions of freedom of expression or freedom to travel. The answer could refer to the failure of Castro's government to set up conditions that would allow strong economic growth.

6.  It is a running joke in Cuba that it has the most talented taxi drivers in the world. What is the economic problem in Cuba that this joke refers to? Suggested Response: There are a number of correct answers to this question. It can refer to the inefficiencies of the command economy which restricted the profit motive. It can refer to the fact that the economy is so weak that it could not provide employment for all of its talented and educated people. In addition, the salaries paid to these people for their work are not enough to support their families. For these reasons many people try to become taxi drivers, an occupation in which they can earn foreign currency.

7.  Sandoval cautions his friend Paquito D'Rivera that "Everyone in Cuba has an ear, not only for music." What does this refer to? Suggested Response: The secret police used informers and there were many of them. Informants would report anything suspicious that anyone else said. This would be followed up with an investigation and perhaps a prison sentence.

8.  The Sandoval character tells the embassy interviewer that in Cuba, you have to have a double face to survive. What does this refer to? Suggested Response: In totalitarian dictatorships, people can't tell others what they are really thinking if it is anything other than what the government wants them to think. A person must have one face for the public, the government and, in Cuba, the Communist party, and another for family and very close friends. Even then, one always must be careful of informers.

9.  In Communist countries, what was the significance of membership in the Communist party? Suggested Response: It meant that the party member swore that he was committed to the goals of the party and accepted party discipline. Party members received benefits such as better jobs, access to consumer goods, better apartments, etc.

10.  Remember the joke that the orthopedist/private detective told Sandoval in the graveyard? The one about the signs in the zoo? In 1960, the sign read, "Please don't feed the animals." In 1970 [after ten years of economic decline under the Communists], the sign read, "Please don't eat the animals' food." After about another ten years of the Communist rule [and continued economic decline] the sign was changed to read "Please don't eat the animals." Why was this joke so funny to Sandoval and the orthopedist/private detective and what role did this joke and others like it play in helping Cubans cope with life in Communist Cuba? Suggested Response: This is only really funny if you don't have enough food to eat or can't get the consumer goods that you want. People are laughing at their own adversity. It helps relieve the tension of their disappointment at the lives they must lead.

11.  Mr. Sandoval said that in 1959, during the Cuban Revolution, the idea that Cuba needed a change in government gave the few revolutionaries that backed Castro the strength of an army. How does that relate to the fear that jazz inspired in the Cuban government and the Communist party? Suggested Response: Mr. Sandoval said that jazz, which relies on improvisation during performances, is such a free art form that it frightens a government which cannot tolerate free thinking.

12.  One phrase that upsets the Sandoval character in the movie is that "There are limits." What did the phrase refer to and what did he object to about that thought? Suggested Response: The phrase meant that there are limits to artistic freedom. Sandoval objected to this because in the realm of the arts or political expression, he didn't think there should be any limits. In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. This has been interpreted broadly and includes freedom of artistic expression. In an abstract art like music, there are no limits whatsoever on expression.

13.  Are there limits to the freedom of artistic expression in music in the democracies such as the United States? Suggested Response: In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. This has been interpreted broadly and includes freedom of artistic expression. In an abstract art like music, there are no limits on expression.

14.  Eventually, through the disguises he was able to invent to keep the authorities from seeing the true nature of his music and when he went on international tours with Dizzy Gillespie and others, Mr. Sandoval was able to perform some American jazz and even the works of such famous American composers as George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. Read the following excerpt and put in your own words why Mr. Sandoval didn't have creative freedom while he lived in Cuba.
Embassy Interviewer: So, you know you can make a lot more money if you weren't in Cuba.

Mr. Sandoval: It's not about the money. It's about the music.

Embassy Interviewer: Well,they let you play the kind of music that you wanted: American Jazz, Gershwin and Ellington.

Mr. Sandoval: You're always taking a risk because you don't know where the line is. You can play Gershwin once too often.

Embassy Interviewer: Not being able to play Gershwin is not persecution.

Mr. Sandoval: It is if someone decides it's counterrevolutionary and they come and they put you in jail. In Cuba you live with that fear every day. That someone might come to you, to your house, to your family, and hurt you because of a song, just a song. That is persecution.
Suggested Response: Obviously there is no one correct answer to this question, but a good answer will touch on the following points: Artists must have freedom for their art to take them where the art will go. If artists are always living in fear that they will go too far and will be imprisoned for their art, their artistic expression will be limited. An artist in fear is an artist who does not have creative freedom.

15.  Should the Sandoval family have defected even though Lionel (Mrs. Sandoval's son by her first marriage) was still in Cuba and would be subject to persecution by the authorities as a result of their defection? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. A good answer will try to balance the obligation that every person has to him or herself to live a full and complete life and the obligations that they have to their family members. It is a very close question.

16.  Jazz is an amalgam of many musical traditions, some African-American and some European. Set out four sources of jazz, at least two of which are purely European music or from European sources. Suggested Response: There are many. Seven are: (1) spirituals; (2) blues; (3) ragtime; (4) Afro-Cuban polyrhythms; (5) New England religious hymns; (6) hillbilly music and (7) European band music.

17.  Please write next to each of the following the provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Cuban government violated by taking the described actions against Mr. Sandoval. Each correct answer counts for half a point.
(A)   Trying to prevent Mr. Sandoval and his family from emigrating to the U.S. (There are three provisions violated, find at least two.) _____

(B)   Not allowing Mr. Sandoval to play the music that he wanted to play. ________

(C)   Not allowing the Cuban people to listen to the Voice of America _____

(D)   Imprisoning people (or threatening to do so) for their beliefs or opinions. (There are two; name them both.) _____
Suggested Response: (A) Articles 13, 14(1) and 15(2); (B) Article 27(1); (C) Article 19; (D) Articles 18 and 19.

18.  What is political asylum? Suggested Response: Permission to live in a country other than the person's country of origin. Political asylum is granted when applicants can demonstrate that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a particular social group or organization.

19.  What happened to the car repair shop that was owned by Mr. Sandoval's father before the Cuban Revolution? What would have happened if he had lived in the U.S. and the government wanted to take over his shop? Suggested Response: It was nationalized, that is, it was taken over by the government without compensation being paid to Mr. Sandoval's father. It was considered his contribution to the revolution. In the U.S., the government would have had to pay him the fair market value of the business in "eminent domain" proceedings.


Discussion Questions:

Many of the questions in the Comprehension Test are also excellent discussion questions or can serve as the basis for an essay. It is good preparation for the test to go over some of the more challenging questions in class.

1.  Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film

2.  What happens to people who must live with a "double face" every day? Suggested Response: Eventually, this takes a psychological toll on the individual. This is an especially bad problem for teenagers for whom acceptance by a group of friends is very important. For most people this lessens as they grow older.

3.  Is it good for society for people to have to live with a "double face" every day. Suggested Response: No, because people need to know who they are dealing with for economic and personal relations to work.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


1.  Would you have the courage to risk imprisonment to lead the life that you wanted to lead? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question.

2.  Have you seen people in your own life meet challenges similar to those met by Mr. Sandoval and his family? What happened? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question.


[The first two questions should be asked together.]

3.  The Sandoval character and the Marianela character are portrayed in the movie as having sexual intercourse the first night that they met. Was this a good idea? Suggested Response: No. Obviously there are ethical problems with this behavior and most major religions and ethical systems would counsel against it. But there are also important practical problems with this behavior rooted in human psychology. Despite the endorsement of "free love" and sex without love proclaimed by some people, sexual intercourse usually implies a major emotional commitment. People cannot get to know one another well enough to judge if they should make serious emotional commitments to one another on the first day that they meet. There is an example of this in the movie. In the morning, the Marianela character, who at that time was a good Communist functionary committed to Castro's revolution, finds the Sandoval character listening to the Voice of America on the radio. In Cuba this is not only a crime which could cost her the nice job she had with the government, it was considered a betrayal of the revolution that she loved so much. To make matters worse, the Sandoval character admits to her that he has been jailed once already for this crime. In other words, he has some strong counterrevolutionary tendencies. Being a counterrevolutionary in Cuba is no joke nor is associating with one. In the few hours that they had known each other before they went to bed, this issue had not come up. Many good and patriotic Cubans and Communist party members would have gotten up and walked out right there, causing both the Marianela character and the Sandoval character substantial emotional pain. But, at that time, there were a host of things about the Sandoval character that the Marianela character didn't know and vice versa, including basic issues about their outlook on life.

In addition, there are also substantial health risks involved in sexual intercourse. Having unprotected sexual relations with a person means exposing yourself to the sexually transmitted diseases of their prior sex partners. So, for mental and physical health reasons, as well as ethical reasons, the Sandoval character should have said goodnight to the Marianela character after their first date. He should have told her that he had too much respect for her and that she was already too important to him for just one night of bliss and that he would call or write her from his trip.

4. What is the advantage to movie makers for the hero and heroine to go to bed with each other right after they have met? Suggested Response: It advances the plot quickly. Movie makers only have a very limited amount of time to develop their plot lines. Especially when a movie has so much to say on social issues, such as this movie, getting the romance under way quickly allows time to develop other areas of the plot.

5. In this movie, the Marianela character is beautiful and the Sandoval character is handsome. Not everyone is like that. Certainly, the real Mr. Sandoval is not as attractive as the actor who portrayed him. Would it have been better to have a less beautiful woman or a less handsome man in these roles? What does it do to the self-image of most people to see so many beautiful actors portraying regular people on the screen? Suggested Response: There is no correct response to this question. Its purpose is to stimulate a debate and get the class thinking about movies in a critical way.

6. The Sandoval and Marianela characters each took big risks in pursuing a relationship with someone with whom they had such strong political differences. Would you be willing to marry someone with whom you had major political disagreements? Suggested Response: The answer is that in selecting a life partner each person needs to evaluate what is important to them and what is important to their partner. They need to think about how they will achieve their goals in life and how their partner will achieve his or her goals in life. No match is perfect and the parties have to decide whether the tension from the disagreements will be overcome by the love they have for each other. This is a very personal decision. Some people like having a partner who will disagree with them in certain areas. Others won't be able to tolerate these differences.


Most of the questions in the Comprehension Test will serve as discussion questions on human rights issues.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

1.  Patriotism is generally thought to be a virtue. Did Mr. Sandoval act wrongly when he gave up on Cuba and tried to leave it? If the U.S. began to impose severe restrictions on human rights, what would you do? Suggested Response: No. Cuba had no right to call upon Mr. Sandoval's patriotism because it would not let him lead a free life and it did not provide him with any reasonable opportunity to change the system.

As for the second part of the question, the answer is that if the United States betrayed the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights and afforded no way for a person to change those policies, then many believe that the obligations of patriotism would disappear. However, as in the case of Mr. Sandoval, who suffered restrictions on his artistic rights for many decades in Cuba before he finally left, it isn't just one, or even a series of infringements on personal rights that justifies abandoning one's country. One has to lose hope that anything can be done.


(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

See question on patriotism in the Trustworthiness section.

Last updated December 29, 2007.

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