An agit-prop documentary marking the death of Vietnamese nationalist leader Ho Chí Minh, using found footage to link his work to worldwide political movements including the Cuban revolution and resistance within the USA to the Vietnam war.
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Cuban agit-prop filmmaker Santiago Alvarez produced this radical newsreel within forty-eight hours of Che Guevara's death by special request of Fidel Castro himself. Fellow filmmaker and ... See full summary »
Divided into three segments, namely 1 Neocolonialism, 2 Act for liberation, 3 Violence and liberation, the documentary lasts more than 4 hours this deals with the defense of the revolution ... See full summary »
Fernando E. Solanas
María de la Paz,
Fernando E. Solanas,
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Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Ana Maria Magalhães,
Eduardo Imbassahy Filho
In December 1967 a Cuban film crew led by Santiago Alvarez the veteran polemicist travelled to Hanoi. They shot the footage which constitutes this short documentary all in one day - Tuesday 13. The film is the story of that day, and what happened to the North Vietnamese people in the course of it.
The film is communist propaganda. If you are likely to be upset by a sympathetic review of a Cuban documentary praising the North Vietnamese war effort, then please don't read any further. If, on the other hand, you can take a dispassionate view of a piece of cinematic art, then be my guest...
Colour is used only in the introductory section on the history of Vietnam, and how the almond-eyed Vietnamese have always been willing to sacrifice their blood to repel invaders. The Chinese, the Cambodians, the Siamese, the French - all have tried to conquer Vietnam and all have been repulsed.
Then we move to black and white for a satirical biography of Lyndon Johnson. A caption tells us of Johnson's birth in 1908, and in a sequence of rapid cuts we are shown archive film of various animals energing from wombs, interspersed with volcanos spewing out magma. Johnson becomes president and the film concentrates on the anti-war protests which dogged his public appearances. His limousine and security men are splashed with paint, and students are manhandled by police. Still photos of Johnson are presented in a satirical montage, aiming to make Johnson look weary and disheartened.
The bulk of the documentary is wordless, allowing the images to speak for themselves. It is accompanied by a truly marvellous musical score.
Now the credits appear, and film gets properly started. A wide, slow river has little rowboats on it and the peasant occupants are catching big, beautiful fish. The music at this point is languid and dreamy, consisting purely of flute and piano. Shoals of fish are being landed in large nets, much as must have happened here for thousands of years. These people are in total harmony with nature.
The scene moves to a 'people's restaurant'. Steaming white rice is spun in peddle-powered devices rather like potter's wheels and simple nourishing dishes are served up by waitresses who have an innocent, unselfconscious beauty.
The rice crop is being planted in the paddies. This age-old work is shown to be hard but wholesome and natural. Water buffalo are the only labour-saving gadgets. Only one thing mars the timeless quality of the scene - the farmers carry rifles slung over their shoulders as they work.
Suddenly, the peace is fragmented by the appearance of American warplanes. The jets are harsh intruders, their aluminium fuselages glittering unnaturally and the ear-splitting screech of their engines filling the air. We see the field workers go into their battle drill, firing their rifles into the air.
And then calm returns. The hideous American things have gone. The workers are leaving the paddies now, having completed a satisfying day's toil. A young mother pauses to wash the mud from her shins before gathering her brood of children and heading home.
One of the people's slogans is, "We transform our hatred into energy." The young women bustle enthusiastically, building air-raid shelters, bearing yokes and carrying mud bricks to strengthen a levee. The rice crop is held in common, and a village has spread its rice on the winnowing-floor like a great carpet of food. Everywhere, people are working. Children weave bamboo mats with great seriousness. Railroads are laid with nothing but human muscle to accomplish the job.
Suddenly the scene shifts to downtown Hanoi. Attractive street scenes follow one another - people eating ices, relaxing in the park ... young girls are shy of the movie camera ... an armed man admires cut flowers in a shop.
Then the bombs begin to fall. Confused images of a city under attack include the strenuous anti-aircraft fire thrown up by the defenders, and the eyes of anxious children.
After the raid come the harrowing pictures of devastation. We see dazed, grieving women, children with severe wounds, homes flattened and statues of ancient gods in ruins.
"They're Coming To Take Me Away", a popular American comic song of the period, is played to sinister ironic effect over still photos and movie images of downed US aircrew being paraded in disgrace as POW's. It closes with makeshift GI graves, each dead man's M16 stuck in the dirt as a crude memorial, with his helmet sitting atop.
The film ends with calm columns of NVA recruits entraining for the war zone. There are no draft-dodgers and no protesters, just a long snaking line of young volunteers, seemingly happy to be defending their homeland.
Verdict - an intelligent, powerful and frequently beautiful anti-American polemic.
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