I Am Cuba Review

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A virgin prostitutes herself to a US bigwig; a sugar farmer torches his land in protest at multinational misappropriation; and a peasant joins Castro's forces in the Sierra Maestra.

★★★★

Filmed in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis and denounced in both Moscow and Havana for its political naivety, this film may only be mediocre agit-prop, but as pure cinema, its credentials cannot be questioned.

Clearly influenced by the high-contrast visual style employed by Sergei Eisenstein on the aborted Que Viva Mexico!, Mikhail Kalatazov manages to romanticise the people and places he visits, while also highlighting the socio-economic realities that have been brought about by local corruption and American exploitation. The vignettes themselves - a virgin prostitutes herself to a US bigwig; a sugar farmer torches his land in protest at multinational misappropriation; and a peasant joins Castro's forces in the Sierra Maestra - veer between human melodrama and crude propaganda. But Sergei Urussevsky's use of a roving 'emotional camera' is quite extraordinary.

Politically naïve maybe, but it works beautifully as straight cinema.