DISSIDENT: Oswaldo Paya & the Varela Project

Dissident: Oswaldo Paya and the Varela Project is a rare look at the life and challenges of the (now deceased) Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá and his groundbreaking Varela Project, the Cuban civic movement that called for a national referendum on democratic reforms. For year, Payá and his small group of activists was threatened, followed and harassed but persisted just the same, a move that put his life in grave danger.

The story of the Varela Project is told through man on the street encounters, a rare and intimate interview with Payá at his home in Havana, never-before-seen footage from his personal archives, vérité scenes with the activist and his activists as they plan for a massive petition drive and moving conversations with Cubans who dared to sign the petition.

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. On 22 July 2012, Payá died in a car crash under controversial circumstances. The Cuban government stated that the driver had lost control of the vehicle and collided with a tree, while Payá’s children and one of the car’s passengers asserted that the car had been deliberately run off of the road.

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