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Documentaries about Cuba
An heretofore incomplete collection of documentaries (whether video, 16 or 35mm, digital, HD, YOUTUBE or otherwise) one should see, rent or buy if one cannot travel to La Isla.

Cuba, Defending Socialism, Resisting Imperialism
48-minute video by Cuban supporters in the UK — Rock Around The Blockade (RATB), 2011. "Its a great little film with a lot of food for thought and a good corrective to all the anti-Cuban stuff in the media,
the interviews are fascinating and say a lot about the difficulties the country continues to face.....very interesting in terms of Cuban ideas of grassroots democracy and the problems of running an economy with a blockade." Other videos, such as "Las Razones de Cuba", "Paths of Terror" give the other side of he coin presented by ill-informed and advertising-and-PR-agency-biaised "journalists". Link on ratb site.

Finding Fidel Dir. Bay Weyman, 2010, 89 mins. Close Up Films,Toronto
The remarkable story of war cameraman Erik Durschmied, who in 1958 journeyed to Cuba's Sierra Maestra mountains to interview a little-known rebel leader named Fidel Castro; explores the hinges of fate, the vagaries of history, and the power of media in both men's lives. After seeing the film, it appears the cameraman (shaking like a beginner) should not quit his day job; as for the main subject, Durschmied (not in the least sympatico, obsessed with death, blood and guts, war and violence), he seems to have learned about Cuba — having been away 50 years — from reading the Miami Herald. el webmaestro

Che, un hombre nuevo

Dir. Tristan Bauer, 2011, 110 min. HD-35 mm — Best Documentary WFF Montréal 2010

Caminos de la Revolucion
5 min. excerpt of Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra before taking power.

Cuban Story Dir. Victor Pahlen, 1959, 20 min. segment
Pahlen, a Hollywood producer ends up in the middle of the revolution with Errol Flynn.

Sons of Cuba Dir. Andrew Lang, 2008, 88 mins., HD CAM
An extraordinary tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people and a stinging visual critique of the decrepitude of parts of Havana. Lang follows the story of three 11-year-old boxers training to be champions in Havana´s state boxing academy. Cuba leads the world in amateur boxing; its giants of the ring have been garlanded with 63 Olympic medals, 32 of them gold.

Yanki No! Dir. Robert Drew, 1960, 20 min.
This 20-minute segment documents the early relationship between the Cuban Revolution and the U.S.

The War on Illiteracy 2008, 33 min.
On arguably the greatest single achievement of the Cuban Revolution

Crisis de Octubre 52 min.
This Cuban documentary covers the scariest moment in U.S.-Cuba relations - The Missile Crisis of October 1962.

Fidel Dir. Saul Landau, 1969, 95 min.
More than a portrait of Fidel, this is a portrait of the revolution at year 10, narrated by Fidel.

Cuba and Fidel
Dir. Saul Landau, 1974, 24 min.
A portrait of a young woman trained as an engineer who, facing discrimination in the workplace, decides she's better off selling home-made sweets.

The Uncompromising Revolution Dir. Saul Landau, 1988, 54 min.
Nearly 20 years later, Landau and Castro take up where they left off, discussing the many problems encountered in the course of the nearly 30 years of revolution.

Quietos Ya, (Hold It Now!) Dir. Guillermo Torres, 1988, 10 min.
This short is about the street photographers in Havana's Parque Central.

Revolucion: Five Visions Dir. Nicole Catell, 2006, 57 min.
Portraits of five Cuban photographers and their very different takes on the Cuban Revolution.

Mama se va a la guerra (Mama Goes to War)
Dir. Guillermo Centeno,1984, 16 min. (Spanish)
Ordinary Cuban women being trained for the "people's militia."

Estetica (Esthetics) Dir. Enrique Colina, 1985, 11 min. (Spanish)
Cuba's leading film historian takes a turn as director to look at popular beauty customs.

Fidel Dir. Estela Bravo, 1992, 91 min.
Criticized as nothing more than a love poem to Fidel Castro, the film is a necessary corrective of U.S. audiences.

The Man of Two Havanas Dir. Vivien Lesnik Weisman, 2007, 96 min.
A Cuban American daughter's effort to understand her father's passion for his native land.

Cuba Amor Dir. Toshi Matsushita, 1995, 38 min.
A musical travelogue.

Miami-Havana Dir. Estela Bravo, 1992, 60 min.
A moving documentary about one of the saddest results of the Cuban Revolution – divided families, divided loyalties, divided politics.

Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time Dir Lorenzo DeStefano, 2007, 80 min.
Portrait of a famous pop group (the "Sapphires") at the beginning of the revolution.

El otro lado de cristal (The Other Side of the Glass)
Dirs. Guillermo Centeno and Maria Ochoa, 1995, 60 min.
A documentary about "Operation Peter Pan" which brought thousands of Cuban children to the U.S. without their parents.

Great Day in Havana Dir. Laurie Ann Schag & Casey Stoll, 2001, 83 min.
Several of Cuba's best artists and musicians talk about the ups and downs of Cuban cultural life.

Soul Mission Dir. Roberto Chile, 2008, 16 min.
Artist Kcho forms a construction and artistic brigade to help rebuild destruction wrought by the 2008 hurricanes on the Isle of Youth.

Jose Fuster: Guajiro de la costa (Fuster: Farmer from the Coast)
Dir Roberto Chile, 2004, 8 min.
A portrait of one of Cuba's best-loved artists, often called the Picasso of the Caribbean.

Motivaciones (Motives)
Dir. Marisol Trujillo, 1988, 15 min. (Spanish)
Manuel Mendive on how his first trip to Africa inspired his painting.

A Cuban Legend : The Story of Salvador Gonzalez
Dir. Bette Wanderman, 2005, 80 min.
A hypnotic journey into the colourful and mysterious world of the AfroCuban culture. Link.

With a Stroke of the Chaveta Dir. Pamela Sporn, 2007, 28 min.
The practice of reading classic works of literature to workers at cigar factories dates back to the mid-1800s. With a Stroke of the Chaveta explores this tradition.

East of Havana
Dir. Emilia Menocal, Jauretsi Saizarbitoria, 82 min. Help from Cuban Hip Hop artist and expert Ariel Fernandez
East of Havana is a blunt, unflinching close-up on the lives and friendship of three young rappers compelled to address their generation's future.

Salud! Dir. Connie Field, 2006, 93 min.
This film outlines Cuba's commitment to international solidarity in the medical field.

Cuba Mia Dir. Cecilia Domeyko, 2002, 86 min.
This portrait of the all-woman orchestra, Camerata Romeu (director Zenaida Romeu) is also a look at how different families live in Cuba today.

Sonata for the Left Hand Dir. Sarah Harbin, 1999, 20 min.
New York piano tuner Benjamin Treuhaft takes pianos and fellow tuners to Cuba.

Ciclón 1963, 22 min
The great director's first important film, about the terrible devastation wrought by Hurricane Flora, foreshadows many of his documentary techniques, such as the use of images so strong that dialogue is unnecessary.

Now! 1965, 6 min.
Images of the U.S. civil rights movement to the music of Lena Horne's "Now!"

79 Primaveras 1969, 25 min.
Alvarez was on assignment to film the funeral of Ho Chi Minh , and from that came this astonishing documentary which weaves the life of Ho through images of the horrific destruction the U.S. brought to Vietnam.

History of a Plaza 1988, 59 min.
The building and making of Havana's Plaza de la Revolución is both a profile of this historic public square and a history of the Cuban Revolution, with amazing documentary footage of the most important events that have taken place there.

Pablo Milanes en vivo (Pablo Milanes Live) 30 min.
A 2004 concert in Plaza España, Santo Domingo.

El que siempre pierda (The One Who Always Loses)
Dir. Guillermo Torres, 1988, 8 min. (Spanish)
A look at umpires who work with Cuban teams.

Fuera de Liga (Dreaming in Blue) Dir. Ian Padron, 2008, 70 min.
This documentary about Cuba's national sport won first prize at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame's 2008 film festival.

Mariposas en el Andamio (Butterflies on the Scaffolding)
Dirs. Margaret Gilpin and Luis Felipe Bernaza, 1995, 74 min.
A delightful look at drag queens in the working class community of La Guinera.


Some claim that there are 50 ways to leave your lover, but how many ways are there to kill off a political enemy? According to the former head of Cuban Intelligence, Fabian Escalante, there are no less than 638.

638 Ways To Kill Castro is a political documentary exploring the history of the relationship between the U.S. government and Cuba, told via the countless attempts to kill Fidel Castro.

From exploding cigars to femme fatales; a radio station rigged with noxious gas to a poison syringe posing as an innocuous ballpoint pen, those who tried to kill Castro reveal every conceivable method of assassination.

On the trail of Castro's would-be killers, the filmmakers meet a series of extraordinary characters, including two men accused of being terrorists, but living free in America. Orlando Bosch, who many consider to be the greatest terrorist in the northern hemisphere, is found living peacefully in his Miami home, with his adoring family. Antonio Veciana, the Cuban American who got the closest to killing Castro on three occasions, now runs a marine store in Miami.

Both men were supported and funded by the United States, and the CIA even sought the help of the Mafia, hoping they would be able to succeed where Bosch and Veciana had failed.

Canadian showing : 30 September 2007 on CBC-TV Newsworld
Source : 638waystokillcastro.com

Bye Bye Havana

Filmmaker J. Michael Seyfert, a constant commuter between journalism and the creative arts, is leaving behind the limitations of entertainment in favor of a more substantial task: to meaningfully and directly affect the plight of his subjects through his work.

For all Havana's crumbling structures and piles of rubble, its disintegrating roads and toxin-belching jalopies, its plethora of armed policemen and sun-bleached billboards espousing their pat, revolutionary slogans, it attracts over a million pink-skinned, camera-toting, snack-munching mojito-swilling tourists each year.

Cuba stands pummeled by an unworkable socialism and a voracious consumer appetite. What began more than forty six years ago seems spent, "patriotism or death" are simply not enough. Cubans want other choices, other points of view, and they can't wait any longer. But defeating the autocracy also means Cubans will need to relinquish much of their collective conscience in order to chase individual profit and personal freedom.

Bye Bye Havana is 90 miles from being political. This fast-paced stream of conscience documentary presents a unique flavor of irony, carried by an eclectic soundtrack featuring Latin Grammy Nominee X Alfonso, hip hop by Free Hole Negro, pianist Roberto Carcasses and jazz poet Telmary. Source : byebyehavana.com

CUBA MIA : Newsreel compilation
Young Fidel Castro, as he assumes power of Cuba in January of 1959.

Table Of Contents: This compilation contains exerts from the following newsreels in chronological order: (1) Rally For Castro. One Million Roar 'Si' To Cuban Executions, 1959/01/22 (1959)(2) Castro 'Resigns' Mass Demonstrations Show His Power Secure, 1959/07/20 (1959) (3) Havana Rally. Peasants Mass To Support Castro, 1959/07/27 (1959) (4) Ike At U.N. Proposes New World Disarmament Program, 1960/09/22 (1960) (5) History At U.N. World Leaders Set New York A-Whirl , 1960/09/26 (1960) (6) Invasion Scare. Castro Masses Troops, Claims U.S. 'Aggression', 1960/10/31 (1960) (7) News Highlights of 1960, 1960/12/31 (1960) (8) U.S. Breaks Relations With Cuba, 1961/01/05 (1961) (9) Cuba Invaded. Foes of Castro Open Offensive, 1961/04/19 (1961) (10) Reds Celebrate May Day, 1961/05/05 (1961) (11) The Cuban Crisis, 1962/10/25 (1962) (12) Missile Bases. Castro Balks At U.N. Team, 1962/11/01 (1962).

Source amazon.com
Documentary covering 40 years of Cuban Revolution. (91 mins. 2003)
Rare Fidel Castro footage: he appears swimming with a bodyguard, visiting his childhood home and school, playing with his friend Nelson Mandela, meeting kid Elian Gonzalez, and celebrating his birthday with the Buena Vista Social Club group.

Cast :
Fidel Castro as Himself
Harry Belafonte as Himself
Elián González as Himself
Ted Turner as Himself
Muhammad Ali as Himself
Angela Davis as Herself
Nelson Mandela as Himself
Alice Walker as Herself

Director : Estela Bravo Studio : First Run Features

Format : Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
Release 22 July 2003

Source amazon.com

Cuba: The Art Revolution
Challenging Fidel's socialist system

13:50 mins

Shot during the 9th Art Bienal de La Habana in April 2006

Source PBS - FRONTLINE WORLD - Rough Cut
Cuba has a long and rich heritage in the arts, but during the last two decades, the visual arts have become a cultural phenomenon. In this week's Rough Cut, filmmaker Natasha Del Toro travels to Cuba to meet two of its most acclaimed artists as well as others who make a good living selling their art to tourists in Havana.

New artists, such as Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters) -- the charismatic duo at the heart of Del Toro's film -- filled the void left by departing artists and began to create innovative sculptures, paintings and installations that cleverly critiqued the socialist system. Marco Castillo and Dagoberto Rodriguez, who make up Los Carpinteros, still live and work in Havana, but they have achieved tremendous success abroad.

You can find their work in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art, and their pieces can fetch $50,000 or more at auction -- an astonishing sum for anyone living in Castro's Cuba. As Del Toro's film reveals, it has given the two men a status and lifestyle few other Cubans could imagine. Successful artists can earn far more than the average Cuban doctor or lawyer, creating an almost feverish will to succeed among Cuba's next generation of artists.

Directed and Produced by Nicole Cattell, a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow and an award-winning documentary producer and director.
Five photographers are featured in REVOLUCION: Five Visions.

REVOLUCION: cinco miradas reframes the Cuban revolution through the art of photography, telling the personal stories of five photographers whose lives and work span nearly five decades of Cuban history. Shot on 24P hi-definition video by Mexico’s premiere director of photography, Chuy Chavez, the film is a breathtaking visual exploration of Cuba yesterday and today.

Raúl Corrales : "Yes, I am romantic. I have to be romantic to be a photographer. I have to see life in a different way."

José Figueroa : "People have always said that photographs don’t lie, which we now know isn’t true. And perhaps if, in some of my photos, what’s outside the photo is more important than what’s in it, that interests me a lot."

Rogelio Gory López Marin : "Every photographer his own way of seeing reality. I try to create my own vision of reality."

René Peña - "An image can be a phrase or a chapter, or it can be a whole book—an entire novel—or a complete fiction."

Manuel Piña - "Photography can say anything about a given event. It’s all in how you manipulate it. I’m a manipulator. I manipulate reality and fantasize about it."

A one-hour (56:40), documentary. ©2006, El Sueño Pictures.
Hasta Siempre - Cuba
Cuba embraced tourism in the early 90's as a means of surviving the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result, the Island has begun to witness many changes which now threaten the integrity of the revolution: racial discrimination, prostitution, consumerism, and the re-emergence of class divisions.

Hasta Siempre takes the viewer on a journey through the lives of ordinary Cubans, examining the results of the Cuban revolution from the perspective of the Cuban people, and asks the question: Can the revolution survive after the death of Fidel Castro?

Producers : Sean Mendez & Yannis Mendez
Directed by : Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.
Duration : 57 minutes
Copyright © 2005 riceNpeas
With or Without Fidel
Cuba, 2007
Director: Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.

Duration: 59 minutes
Copyright © 2007 riceNpeas
With Or Without Fidel is a ground-breaking documentary that features Cuba’s leading politicians, intellectuals and dissidents, who debate the future direction of the Island’s 48 year-old revolution.

How do Cubans feel about their own identity and freedom of speech? For the first time, the people of Cuba question the values that western democracy holds sacred and the price Cubans have paid for their independence.

With Or Without Fidel is an extremely rare glimpse into the heart of Cuban society. While the BBC, CNN and other correspondents were expelled from the country, Rice N Peas Films was given unprecedented access to produce an honest portrayal of the Island.

Filmed during the most precarious period in Cuba’s history, With or Without Fidel reveals the aspirations and vulnerabilities of a country on the brink of change.

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© sogestour • Updated 29.12.2013