I Am Cuba ★★★★

To get the obvious out of the way, this is a visual tour de force. Rarely have I seen a film where the camera is so alive, moving in seemingly impossible directions for long takes. One extraordinary shot begins at ground level on a crowd in the street, travels several stories up, passes through an office, and then floats out the window over the very street where it began. I often felt like I was being pulled through the fourth wall into the picture, and the distorted image (like a subtle fish-eye lens) gave the impression of this world constantly towering over me. I can see why the Cuban people found it to be a misrepresentation at the time, as the stylized world seems so far removed from any vision of reality -- but then that is the nature of propaganda. For what is essentially an anthology film, it felt more cohesive than others I've watched, less like just a bunch of stories thrown together. Moving from the intensely personal to a more sweeping depiction of revolution, it builds dramatically as it progresses. The scenarios and characters are expectedly broad, and the performances without much nuance (oof at those "Americans"), but there are occasional touches of inner conflict, particularly when a revolutionary can't bring himself to kill a target surrounded by his children. As a work of propaganda, the film certainly milks the viewer's presumed hostility toward the old guard and champions Castro's revolution. It's a rousing work, but first and foremost it's an astounding piece of cinema.