Synopsis by Tom Wiener
An unabashed exercise in cinema stylistics, I Am Cuba is pro-Castro/anti-Batista rhetoric dressed up in the finest clothes. The film's four dramatic stories take place in the final days of the Batista regime; the first two illustrate the ills that led to the revolution, the third and fourth the call to arms which cut across social and economic lines. A lovely young woman in a nightclub frequented by crass American businessmen takes a customer to her modest seaside shack for a night of pleasure for pay, only to be found out by her street vendor suitor; a tenant farmer is told that his crop has been sold to United Fruit and in frustration burns his fields; a middle-class student rallies his pals and workers in a street demonstration against the regime; a peasant eking out a living in the mountains quickly converts to the cause when Batista bombers strafe his land in search of rebel fighters. At face value, this is all obvious agitprop, but director Mikhail Kalazatov turned his cinematographer, Sergei Urusevsky, loose, and the result is a procession of dazzling black-and-white images, shot with a camera that is almost always moving and soaring over the sugar fields, swooping in and out of urban buildings, following characters down narrow streets. Unreleasable to American theaters during the Cold War, I Am Cuba, through the auspices of filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, got a belated U.S. release in 1995 and has proved to be both a time capsule of a fading political movement and a timeless work of cinematic art.
activism, class-system, Communist-party, decadence, poverty, protest, revolution
High Artistic Quality, High Historical Importance, High Production Values