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Cuban Rafters (2002)
"Balseros" (original title)

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The story of Cuban refugees who risked their lives in homemade rafts to reach the United States, and what life is like for those who succeed.


(as Carlos Bosch) ,


(as Carlos Bosch) ,
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Guillermo Armas ...
Herself (archive footage)
Rafael Cano ...
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Oscar Del Valle ...
Mericys Gonzalez ...
Misclaida Gonzalez ...
Miriam Hernández ...
Juan Carlos Subiza ...


The story of Cuban refugees who risked their lives in homemade rafts to reach the United States, and what life is like for those who succeed.

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Release Date:

12 April 2002 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

Cuban Rafters  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


It was originally a news video made in the mid 90s, when a lot of Cuban citizens started to try arriving at the USA by sea. Years later, the director and the director of photography tracked down the people of the video and filmed them at their new lives. See more »


Featured in The 76th Annual Academy Awards (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Rowing to the Promised Land
31 May 2004 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

I missed this documentary when it ran for about two weeks at the Film Forum. I was hoping that it would resurface again, as was the case, when it was shown on cable not too long ago. Both film makers, Carlos Bosch and Jose Ma. Domenech must be commended for tackling the story about seven or eight "raft people" in pursuing their dream to go to the United States in search of a better life.

Cuba, after more of 45 years of communist rule, has been a monumental failure. I am sure that some people will argue that because the embargo and American policies toward that nation, things turned out the way they did. In the end one dictator was replaced by another. The paradise that was promised at the beginning of the revolution is still to be realized. In order to survive in Cuba today, one has to have either relatives abroad, or to belong to the inner circle. No one wants to face the reality that when Cuba was a Soviet Union colony, they could buy whatever it was needed, either on credit, or through gifts in way of oil and basic heavy machinery from its Russian bosses.

That a lot of the population wants to get out of the "tropical paradise" is no surprise. In the case of the people singled out in the documentary, only a few get to fulfill their dreams and get to live a modified "American Dream", while the other half failed miserably, maybe because the reality of the dream turned for them into a nightmare.

Of all the cases presented, only about three make something out of themselves. Their idea of how capitalism works is much more of whatever dreams they might have had. The reality of life in the United States, with its harsh realities, play havoc with a few of the new immigrants. That is the case of the former prostitute who turn into a drug dealer and the young black sculptor who gets involved with the wrong kind of crowd in New York.

This is a must see documentary that stays neutral neither in favor of the exodus, or against it.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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