Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
Original title: Soy Cuba
USSR/Cuba, 1964. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos, Mosfilm. Screenplay by Enrique Pineda Barnet, Evgeniy Evtushenko. Cinematography by Sergey Urusevskiy. Music by Carlos Farinas. Production Design by Evgeniy Svidetelev. Costume Design by Rene Portocarrero. Film Editing by Nina Glagoleva.
This masterpiece did not surface in the western world until thirty years after its original Soviet release, when screened at a film festival retrospective of director Mikhail Kalatozov’s work. This Soviet-Cuban coproduction, commissioned as a friendship project to welcome the Caribbean island to its new communist existence, was intended as propaganda against the deposed Battista regime and the now-expelled American industry. It fulfills this duty but is also a lyrical, almost romantic glimpse at an island paradise in turbulent transition, telling four stories that gradually increase in severity as the capitalist nation is taken advantage of by American industrialists and its people respond with revolutionary fervour. A bathing beauty contest, a disillusioned farmstead, a march of students and an oppressed mountain family are just the tip of the iceberg of the many unforgettable images and inspiring tales that are included in this masterful epic, sort of a communist Dolce Vita. What’s even more enjoyable is reading the American reviews that emphasize praising its “artistic” merits without supporting its politics.