The now famous long take that begins at the top of the hotel, then winds around and down into the swimming pool, originally come out of the water and continued. The camera was hand held, passed from crew member to crew member, to make its way down the side of the hotel into the pool. The camera lens had been equipped with a high speed, spinning glass disk taken from a submarine periscope. The spinning disk was installed to fling water drops of the lens when the camera emerged from the swimming pool at the end of the shot. Much to the disappointment of the camera crew, director Mikhail Kalatozov cut the end of the take, ending it underwater.
This film was made when the Soviet Union sent director Mikhail Kalatozov, won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival for his film 'The Cranes are Flying', to Cuba to make a film to celebrate the Cuban revolution. Kalatozoy arrived in Cuba the week after the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion when the revolution was still being won and Cuban people remained optimistic about their future. Filming continued on, as well, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.
Both the Soviets and the Cubans were disappointed in the film. In Cuba, it is referred to as "I am NOT Cuba". They never felt it was a portrait of themselves - but, rather a depiction of Cuba imposed on them by the Soviet Union. Soviet Union wanted to make a straight-forward propaganda film. They felt the director Mikhail Kalatozov made an 'art' film instead.
Soviet Union, who financed the movie, complained that the film focused too much about art for arts sake and not a film for the people's sake. Consequently, they brought charges of 'formalism' up on the director of the film, Mikhail Kalatozov.