In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the Fulgencio Batista led government of Cuba in a revolution. Soon afterward, the US government, alarmed at a communist nation so close to their shores, began working with Cuban exiles and dissenters to find some way to assassinate the new Cuban leader. This film covers some of the 638 alleged attempts to do so, the native collaborators involved and how Castro's security successfully frustrated them all. In addition, the film illustrates the tumultuous relations between the nations over the decades and the disreputable Cuban characters who are prepared to go to horrific extremes to achieve their political aims with US complicity. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
638 Ways to Kill Castro screened at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. It is a fun and entertaining film to watch, but the lightheartedness and focus on the silliest of the plots against Castro often seems to undermine the audience's ability to take the film and the issues they are raising seriously. The choice of editing in footage from old black and white crime noir movies into a documentary to illustrate plots to kill Castro is an odd one that seems to detract from the factual nature of the documentary.
The film starts by focusing on the humorous nature of the CIA and Cuban exile plots against Castro and then seems to turn suddenly to the subject of terrorist acts by the anti-Castro groups. The two subjects really seem to be separate, albeit related, ones. The film's style and approach mocks the anti-Castro groups even though their actions and their influence in American politics is very serious. These groups are easy targets, because they are so outlandish and often ridiculous. On the other hand, they give short shrift to genuine reasons that the anti-Castro groups hate the Cuban dictator and what he's done to their country. In so doing the film portrays Castro as a heroic figure and mostly ignores the human rights violations of his regime. Just because the anti-Castro groups are ridiculous, doesn't mean that Castro should be viewed as the savior of Cuba.
Late in the film, the documentary focuses on the fundamental contradictions between the U.S. "War on Terror" and its support of anti-Castro "terrorists." This would have made a much more substantive topic for a documentary than the putting so much focus on the many silly plots against Castro. While the documentary provides a good window on an important subject, it could have been a much better and more informative film than it ended up if the film makers were more focused and less interested in mocking the anti-Castro groups and U.S. policy.
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