Documentary about Fidel Castro, covering 40 years of Cuban Revolution. Rare Fidel Castro footage: he appears swimming with a bodyguard, visiting his childhood home and school, playing with ... See full summary »
Documentary about Fidel Castro, covering 40 years of Cuban Revolution. Rare Fidel Castro footage: he appears swimming with a bodyguard, visiting his childhood home and school, playing with his friend Nelson Mandela, meeting kid Elián Gonzalez, and celebrating his birthday with the Buena Vista Social Club group. Written by
Cuba's Fidel Castro is a survivor. Having outlasted nine U.S. Presidents and survived numerous assassination attempts by the CIA, Castro has ruled Cuba for 43 years and, whether you love him or hate him, he must be considered one of the most important political figures of the 20th century. Fidel, a documentary by Cuban-American journalist, Estella Bravo, is a sympathetic portrait of the Cuban leader that was commissioned by Channel 4 in Britain, and won the Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking from the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York. The film spans a period of 40 years of Castro's rule from his early childhood and college days to his Presidency of Cuba and includes interviews with Harry Belafonte, Nelson Mandela, Alice Walker, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Sydney Pollock, and others. Rare footage shows him swimming with his bodyguards, working in the fields cutting sugar cane, visiting his childhood school, hanging out with Ted Turner and Jack Nicholson, and talking with Elian Gonzales, the six-year old boy who became a rallying point for Cuban exiles in Miami.
Released from prison after serving two years of a fifteen-year sentence, Castro took a ragtag army of volunteers and recruited farmers, women, and working people in the mountains to fight a decade-long guerilla war that led to the overthrow of American-backed Fulgencio Batista and his takeover of Cuba in 1959. Unfortunately, Ms. Bravo shows us very little of the war or the reasons behind the popular uprising (better depicted in the Russian film I Am Cuba). Once in power, Castro began a series of agrarian reforms that included nationalizing the foreign refineries, seizing U.S. owned businesses such as Chase Manhattan Bank, United Fruit Company, and Texaco Oil. Added to that, American dismay at the mass trials of those who opposed the revolution led to the establishment of the U.S. embargo in 1960 and Castro's embrace of the Soviet Union, the establishment of a Communist dictatorship, and the suspension of democratic elections.
Though at times revealing, I found Fidel on the whole to be overly simplistic. Ms. Bravo extols Castro's virtues on almost every front including his support for free health care including surgical procedures unavailable in other Third World Countries, and Cuba's universal education for all its citizens up to the tertiary level. These accomplishments are important, yet many contentious issues are simply ignored. Bravo never mentions that homosexuality was considered counterrevolutionary and subject to imprisonment and forced labor until 1988 nor the Human Rights Watch Report in 2000 that states that Cuba has routinely imprisoned and/or harassed "peaceful opponents of the government". I recognize that many of the well documented abuses have come about because of Castro's desire to protect the revolution, knowing full well that the U.S. has channeled millions of dollars to dissidents in hopes of destroying it, yet these are issues that cry out for fuller examination. While Castro has become a symbol of courage and independence for millions of Third World people, he is neither saint nor demon, but a man of deep contradictions and complexities whose full story waits to be told.
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