For five years, film critic Scott Tobias compiled "The New Cult Canon" in a regular column for The A.V. Club…
I Am Cuba
An unabashed exercise in cinema stylistics, I Am Cuba is pro-Castro/anti-Batista rhetoric dressed up in the finest clothes. The film's four dramatic stories take place in the final days of the Batista regime; the first two illustrate the ills that led to the revolution, the third and fourth the call to arms which cut across social and economic lines.
We're losing our shit for CGI long takes when this movie exists?
Film #6 of Florin's Recommendations
“No, it’s not interesting senior.”
Camera enters the room, it moves around then exits through the window and goes floating over a crowded street. In another scene it moves around a room then moves out of the window, moves vertically to get to the bottom floor and then again moves around and finally follows a woman into the pool and goes under the water. How is that possible? I have no idea. The camera work is amazing, it moves in all possible ways and captures some bizarre images. A visually stunning movie and one that should be watched by anyone who seeks new experiences, one of the best cinematographies ever. Period.
But is that enough?…
Never since Sergei Eisenstein helmed the great Battleship Potemkin has propaganda film charged to the top of the mantel, setting the bar for the medium. Mikhail Kalatozov, employed by the Russian government to make a propaganda film in Cuba in order to promote socialism on an international scale is then given carte blanche in doing so. The result becomes the masterpiece of world cinema that stands before you in Soy Cuba. A labor of aesthetic beauty, a mastering of skills, and a culmination of cinema identifying on a universal base of human struggle against the many injustices of corrupt political systems.
Even though this film did serve a specific political purpose in promoting Fidel Castro and the communist regime (making…
Not just a Bolshevik hallucination, but also a feverish ballet. Sure, it's propagandistic, but the outsized emotions are emphatically physical. The actors are dancing, acting out their drama in their movements, from the prostitute dancing in the club, to the revolutionary marching against any and all oppression. The camera, of course, is the prima ballerina.
She is Cuba, and oh how beautiful she is. One of the most aesthetically incredible works of art I've ever seen, this is a staggering confluence of realism and expressionism, somehow tying together disparate styles to create a visually vivid and narratively nebulous masterpiece that works as beautifully as an ode to its homeland as any film I've ever seen. It's a wonder that something so openly propagandist can transcend implicit political and philosophical viewpoints; whether you share the doctrines to which the film ideologically adheres, you can't help but be swept adrift its sea of semiotics. How beautifully moving are its four stories, how sadly indicative of the plight of the nation. Through the…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
For some people, cinema is all about telling a good story. I respect that point of view - I came to film from a fairly literary background - but I can't completely agree with it. Films like this are why.
I Am Cuba is a propaganda film made in 1964 as a co-production between the Soviet Union and the young regime of Fidel Castro. It shows the spirit and vitality of the Cuban people, their exploitation by the forces of the ousted President Fulgencio Batista and their eventual revolution. It tells four stories, my favourite of which involves an old farmer who dreams of his youth and wishes for rain to come and save his dying crops. The rain then…
If this is propaganda then i am cuba. Has to be one of the greatest films ever made. Propaganda never works but somehow, i now support the revolutionaries. Oh i must rent ' motorcycle diaries to start with' and then maby watch Steven Soderbergh's 'CHE' - actually i think propaganda does work - really, no, i think this is just great classic film making.
In the first story, Maria works as a dancer in a Havana bar and lives an idyllic existence with her boyfriend, Rene, until he comes home one morning to find a wealthy American businessman dressing, cavalierly tossing money at Maria on his way out.
In the second story, Pedro learns he must move after his landlord sells his property to a conglomerate. Bitter, he burns the land and inadvertently dies of smoke inhalation.
In the third story, a demonstrator is killed during a clash with police. In a transcendent scene, the camera follows the coffin of the martyred protester through the streets.
In the final story, a small farmer is reluctant to join the revolution, but changes his mind after…
The only reason you could dislike I Am Cuba is if you are American and offended by its portrayal of your people. Other than that, it's a crime to not appreciate this breathtaking beauty.
The camera dances, swirls, and soars with ease through agitprop Cuba, capturing what appears to be impossible imagery every second of this wondrous creation.
Those dutch angles.
Those crazy long takes.
an incredibly large film
A beautifully shot Cuban/Soviet propaganda film about Ugly Americans (and Europeans?) and the downtrodden urbanites they exploit; noble farmers and the landowners who exploit them; young revolutionaries, the government agents who exterminate them, and the peasants caught between. There are a lot of creatively innovative pre-Steadicam tracking shots that are, alone, worth seeing the film for.
The sound synching in the club scenes early in the movie is problematic and I found it a bit difficult to watch in thise scenes.
A Castro supporting revolutionary exhorting the peasant farmer to dream about owning his own land is ... amusing.
The revolutionary radio broadcast from the forests sounds like a generic modern American politician talking about things the people should have without any mention of how to provide them.
Watching Soy Cuba for anything but the visuals may be disappointing. The Crash-like structure involves several characters loosely strung together by events in Cuba, and tend to be lessons to be learned, rather than fully structured vignettes of Cuban life. There's nothing in the way of story that hasn't been seen before, and better. It's Castro propaganda, and how.
But propaganda can be art (just look at most of the posters to come out of the USSR). The long shots, the cinematography, the editing: any of the half dozen long shots in this film could be the staggering centerpiece of any other movie, but this one just keeps throwing it in your face. The funeral procession is particularly overwhelming, as emotionally and visual it forces the viewer to wonder "How did they do THAT?"
Pretty much a russian silent movie in the tradition of Eisenstein and Pudovkin (the same style and the need to tell politically charged messages), but without the quick cuts in between the shots.
Oh boy, that camera work.
Boasting effortless, acrobatic camerawork which possesses the ethereal ability to glide through thick walls and vast landscapes alike, Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) carves a delicate, humane mosaic of human suffering, class oppression and the revolutionary uprising which appears only consequential and natural when human dignity and fundamental needs for survival are threatened or taken away.
By contrasting rural (peasant) life with the bustling urbanization of the big cities, and further drawing stark, realist parallels between the old generation and the new (student) youth of Cuba, Mikhail Kalatozov honestly depicts the conditions necessary for a true people's revolution to take place within a country. He has a profound grasp of the human cost and the strength of spirit the people…