This film was truly a surprise for me. After seeing that it was a Spanish-Cuban co-production, and considering the material, I thought it would be mediocre, better suited for TV material, not to mention propagandistic. But I was terribly wrong.
Instead, this film offers us all the best such a co-production can offer. The virtually unlimited use of original, historical locales (spruced up for the filming), gorgeous costumes, a cast of hundreds... Things that are only possible, or with a $100 million plus budget, or if shot in a country like today's Cuba, which puts almost unlimited resources at the disposal of film makers in return for the money spent filming on the island.
The Spanish cast, a few of which play Cuban roles, is very convincing. It is interesting to see the "son" in "All About My Mother" as an adult, and officer in the Spanish Army. Other well-known Spanish and Cuban stars also have meaty roles, and play them for all the characters can offer.
In scope, grandeur, attention to detail, and as a chronicle of a crucial phase in Cuba's country, this film is very much like GONE WITH THE WIND. The historical perspective presented is very enlightening. The Cubans do make some interesting, rarely seen, relevant points on the stormy state of Cuban-American relationships throughout Cuba's history. However, since the film is a European co-production, the ideology never goes too far. Not as far as I think the Cubans would have taken it had it been an independent production of their own.
But that's why a film like this had never appeared before. It was not feasible economically for Cuba, before or since Castro, to undertake such a production. Now, with the right conditions, such an epic about the Cuban struggle for independence is finally out (and on PAL Video, by the way). And it is quite stunning. I'm surprised I did not hear much buzz about this film prior to its video release this year. If you enjoy historical epics, don't miss this one.
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