Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
First Run Features has released Moments With Fidel, a rarely seen film from the Cuban Film Archive, as part of their Cuba: Paths to Revolution series. It’s a collection of archival footage that highlights some of the more important moments in the Cuban leader’s lifetime, from the toppling of Batista’s imperialist regime in 1959, to present day.
I reviewed this movie hoping to learn a bit more about a subject in which my knowledge is sorely lacking. The fact that this movie was not made in America made it all the more appealing, as I knew it wouldn’t be tainted by an anti-Castro slant. I was hoping to get a more balanced look at this controversial figure than the American media typically provides. Moments With Fidel didn’t quite deliver on all counts, but it did offer a little more insight into Fidel’s motivations.
The filmmaker seemed to assume that the viewer had a decent knowledge of Cuban history. As I mentioned before, I have only the vaguest knowledge, which worked against me, as I couldn’t keep up with a lot of the information. I didn’t walk away with any more knowledge of Cuban history than I did before, but I did get to see a bit more of the personal side of Fidel Castro. Footage showcasing visits to a schoolyard does not show the vile dictator we’ve been taught about on the news. Rather, it shows a very genuine man who cares about the people and the culture of his country. Politicians can stand on a pulpit and lie through their teeth, but seeing Castro play baseball and basketball with a group of school kids shows both a love of the game and a free spirit. You can’t fake that.
I was also impressed with various speeches that were part of the documentary, speeches in which Castro was more than willing to admit mistakes the Party had made, and accept responsibility for setbacks that had befallen the people of Cuba. In a world where leaders are quick to pass the buck and blame everyone but themselves, it was shocking and refreshing to see this very humble behavior. Again, I walked away feeling like there’s a lot more to this man than we are usually told.
The extra features on this DVD release are three rare films. My Brother Fidel is a 1977 conversation between Fidel Castro and a 92-year old man who met Cuba’s national hero, Jose’ Marti. The First Delegate recounts the history of the Communist Party of Cuba, and Condemn Me, It Does Not Matter discusses Fidel’s role in the Moncada Assault of July 29, 1963. Once again, it seemed that a slightly more than rudimentary knowledge of Cuban history was necessary, and I felt a little lost watching these short documentaries.
Despite my lack of knowledge and mild trouble with these films, I still enjoyed them. At the very least, you will get to see another side to a man so often maligned in the American press, and perhaps learn a little something. On another note, it’s worth it just to watch Castro deliver a speech to the Cuban people. His oratory skills, even though he speaks a language I do not understand, are inspiring and captivating. I was very glad to spend just a few moments with Fidel.