Life of Juanita Castro (1965)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Run Time - 66 min.  |  
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Based on a Life magazine article in which Fidel Castro's sister, Juanita, denounced her brother, inspired by rumors that Castro's brother, Raul, was a transvestite, and that Castro himself had once appeared as an extra in an Esther Williams movie, The Life of Juanita Castro rewrites history as a high-camp farce. Juanita, Fidel, Raul, and fellow revolutionary Che Guevara (all played by women) sit on a stage throughout the film along with screenwriter Ronald Tavel, who feeds them all of their lines and actions. They sit facing a camera they think is filming them, but in fact all the action was shot with a camera placed off to the side. This setup results in some truly absurd moments. Whenever Juanita or Fidel approach the "camera" to make an impassioned speech in close-up, they walk right out of the frame. Juanita Castro pokes fun at both machismo (the male characters are played by women) and totalitarianism (Tavel often orders the cast to perform pointless actions in unison), but ultimately resists any kind of political interpretation. Rather, it presents politics as just another form of show business, and Castro as one more pop culture icon ripe for parody.