Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
When it was made, this earnest film was disdained in both of the countries that it was intended for: Cuba and Russia. It was made in 1964 as a "friendship project" between the new communist regime in Cuba and its older sibling, the one in Russia. In both countries, it was scorned as an entirely derivative piece of gee-whiz communist propaganda, as ham-fisted, culturally, in its approach to Cuban-ness as it was overt and obvious in its celebration of communism. However, rarely has such a set-piece been as exuberantly and vigorously put together. This is why, in 1993, it was viewed by critics at the Sundance Film Festival as a kind of classic; they considered it to be an archetypal representative of a whole genre of filmmaking. In one segment, an old cane worker sets fire to his fields rather than sell his harvest to a large American corporation. In another, some guerillas link up with peasants near the end of the Cuban revolution, and in another, a group of revolutionary students harass the previous government of Cuba by staging a series of riots. However, it is not the story and its content which prompted so much admiration for this film, but its difficult, ingenious and skillful cinematography and its luxuriant score which contrasts sharply with the humorless narration and bathetic stories.