Is that a Cuban cigar in your pants or are ya just happy to see me? (gee flippancy is so unlike me— must be spring).
Where to start? A thorough disappointment and for God’s sake I like the man and his politics! And why a disappointment?… cause I walked outa the Charles Theater adoring Fidel. Yep— I applauded along with the other seven or eight folks in the theater and toasted him afterwards at the Club Charles and I don’t care what anyone says but in retrospect no politician is a savior unless you are Ghandi or (insert politician's name) yea I didn't think you could think of anyone. If you can think of someone I’ll happily give you my Bday gift of 10 free Video Americain rentals (or maybe not so happily) but I’m confident no one but Ghandi or Nelson Mandela comes close to being a savior. So why the disappointment? This "documentary" smacked of propaganda like I don’t know what. A puff piece if there ever was one. Whoa- holda holda (pardon insertion of Indie rocker speak)— don’t get your knickers in a bunch quite yet. No matter what I think of his politics, or what you do, and I assume a lot of us out there have a big ole soft spot in our hearts for Fidel and his attempts at nationalized health care, education and a redistribution of wealth— this film is so one-sided it is insulting.
Director Estela Bravo is to Fidel what some may say Leni Riefenstahl was to Hitler. Whoa! Some serious hyperbole going on but keep reading… This documentary is the antithesis of films by Errol Morris or Ken Burns (not that Mr. Moore is terribly unbiased but even Moore makes an attempt at even-handed treatment- well okay not a lot but a more than Bravo). Old Edward R. Murrow interviews of Fidel with his son and his dog… come on…! Crowd says, "ooh how cute!" Manipulation. The ever-fantastic, nay brilliant, Sydney Pollack asking us why we can't forgive this guy if we've forgiven other enemies? Crowd goes: "Yea! Sydney is respected so how wrong can he be?" Manipulation. Just one man’s opinion I say. Footage of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who claims that Castro reads and edits his manuscripts before they're published speaking about Fidel’s generosity and kindness. More manipulation. All of us who love Marquez want so desperately to believe this man is correct. Go ahead and trot out footage of Muhammad Ali and Jack Nicholson with Castro— yea we all like both but intellectual heavy hitters they ain’t and neither makes any particularly insightful comments on Fidel. More manipulation… and why the parade of celebrities? Cause Bravo knows Americans have a fascination, nay worship, of any and all celebrities and credit them with far more intelligence and respect than they deserve. Afterall we are the nation that gave John Bobbit a television show- or was it his ex-wife: same diff.
Oh yea this film is tailored towards Americans did I mention that? Hollywood in particular as a source for enlightened commentary on politics is a losing proposition when we have folks like David Corn, Eric Alterman or even William F. Buckley Jr.,(take your pick left or right none of these guys are dumb) to read and digest. Bravo wrongly assumes that audiences upon seeing Jack Lemmon with Castro will equate progressive-minded politics with Castro. Aside from Tim Robbins don’t look towards Hollywood for anything but the next Multiplex blockbuster and Bravo thinks the folks who check this film out are about that. Where are the dissenting voices?
We all know that as humans go last I checked no one is perfect — except maybe the Virgin Mary (I can get away with saying this cause I was raised a Catholic and any relatives reading this would not invite me to Easter dinner if I said otherwise). The only dissenting "voices" are the ever irascible and yet endearing journalist Mike Wallace and Jesse Helms, which in totality on screen last about five minutes if that.
On a positive note the footage of Che and Fidel is historically accurate— one senses that the connection politically and personally between these two men was profound. The United States has tried during Lord knows how many Administrations to paint an unflattering picture of Castro but we as Americans are smart enough to know otherwise and to have such a one-sided view of Castro shoved down our throats is insulting. Somewhere in the middle of what our government tells us about Castro and what Bravo portrays in this film is the truth. Judge for yourself.