A new 4K restoration of Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 Cuban-Soviet film ‘I am Cuba’ (Soy Cuba) screens at Film Forum in Hudson Square, Manhattan from February 15-21, 2019.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND, Friday-Thursday, March 15-21, 2019. EXTENDED AGAIN through Thursday, April 4, 2019.
‘I am Cuba’
This is an exceptional classic film for several reasons.
First it was filmed in 1964 at the height of the Cold War when the Soviet Union financed a film about the Cuban Revolution. It provides a view of Cuba at a time when Americans were locked out.
The first thing you notice about the movie is the incredibly long tracking shots that make you wonder how they were done. This was before Steadicam and all the technology we use today.
It was all done by a camera operator with a camera strapped on his chest who was flown through the settings by manually hooking and unhooking a shoulder harness.
Nobody liked the movie when it came out. Cubans didn’t thought the portrayal of decadence made them look bad. Soviets didn’t think it was revolutionary enough. Americans refused to see it because it was a “communist movie.”
The film was basically lost to history until a print was screened at the Telluride Film Festival in 1992. That led to the San Francisco International Film Festival and Milestone Films, its current distributor.
Someone screened the movie for Martin Scorsese who loved it. Both he and Francis Ford Coppola supported the film’s rerelease. Milestone screened it a Film Forum in 1995.
The new 4K restoration screened at the New York Film Festival in 2018.
Stories of the Cuban Revolution
The movie opens with an incredible tracking shot of Americans partying at a Cuban hotel.
It then tells four short stories. Each shows a different point of view on what is Cuba.
The first is about Maria, a poor young woman who wants to marry her fruit-seller boyfriend, but secretly works as a prostitute at one of the American hotels. There is a surreal bar scene where a client picks her up. When the client asks to go to her house instead of the hotel, she takes him to the beach shack where she lives. In the morning, he steals her most prized possession, a cross. As he is leaving, her boyfriend shows up and they are horrified by the scene.
That was a sad reality. Pre-revolutionary Cuba was largely run by American mafia figures. Havana was an anything goes playground. The rich take advantage of the poor as always.
The second story is about Pedro, a farmer who just raised his biggest sugar crop. The landlord shows up and tells Pedro the land has been sold and he must leave immediately, including leaving his crop. Pedro gives his savings to his family and then burns his home and crop, dying in the fire.
This is another truth about Latin America. Working people are constantly being pushed off their land into tragic endings.
The third story tells the story of Enrique, a rebellious student at Havana University. He wants to do something for his country. When he sets himself up to shoot the chief of police, he can’t do it because the chief is surrounded by his own children. Later Enrique himself gets killed in the demonstration.
The Cuban Revolution began in the universities. The rebels who started the revolution got swept aside by Castro’s people.
The last story is about Mariano, a farmer who refuses to join the rebels. But after the government bombs his home, he heads to the mountains to join the revolution.
Most people don’t want revolutions and war, but if pushed hard enough, we have no choice but to fight.
Forget about the politics of it all. ‘I am Cuba’ is a striking take on the Cuban Revolution that is so unique, you will want to see it again.
‘I am Cuba’ Tickets
Tickets are available at the box office and online at filmforum.org
209 West Houston St, New York, NY 10014
(between Varick & Sixth Ave)
Hudson Square, Manhattan
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