Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba was made in 1964, obtained a brief Japanese release in 1968, and was buried in the Russian archives for almost 30 years until Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola gave it new life in 1995. In so doing, they gave us one of the most technically impressive films of its time, and one of the most politically naive. When it was made, the idea behind this Soviet-Cuban co-production was to show Cuba as it was under the thumbs of its capitalist oppressors and usher in its glorious future under its communist saviors. The problem—apart from the fact that the glorious future wasn’t quite that glorious—was that the film, for all its technical panache, was no more subtle than a 1920s propaganda movie from Sergei Eisenstein. The evil capitalists—mostly “ugly Americans”—are too evil and too silly to take quite seriously. It’s not that the film was wrong, it simply tried too hard. Technically, however, the movie is a knockout—a knockout with some reservations, but a knockout.
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