"I am Cuba". A strange kind of title for a movie. I had visions of some sort of travel dialogue where I could see some of the bright, sunny history of this island getaway.
Instead, I find myself watching a dark, revealing expose' of Cuba's historic turmoil; the ugly, seldom-seen underbelly of an emerging country.
Cuba's story is told in several vinettes, in "first person" style. For some reason, which I haven't figured out yet, the narrator of this movie speaks in Russian, while we listen to the people speaking in their native language, and English subtitles try to keep up with the action. It's very confusing at times, but it's fairly easy to follow the story. The images are raw, revealing and "in your face" involving.
We see this country evolving through the eyes of the poor, in particular, how some of the women had been exploited to help their families. survive. The 50's nightclub scenes showed us how the Americans came to Cuba and used it and its people as their unsavory, underground escape from regular social rules and responsibilities. This social abuse of the Cuban people paralleled the initial invasion by Christopher Columbus in the 1400's.
We see how the farmers were treated; how they didn't own their own land and were not allowed to reap the benefits of their own sweat and tears.
We are brought amongst a new generation of educated university students who want to free their people from their slavery by others. The style of photography brings us face to face, not only with the characters in this story, but right into the center of their struggles with the government officials but also their own conscience as they press forward in their quest.
In all these vinettes, we are taken much deeper into the daily lives and struggles of the Cubans as they try to escape from the pressures of outside groups with their own greedy plans. The fact that the film was shot in black and white, makes a statement right of the bat, letting the viewer know that this is not going to be your regular travelogue. The narrator remains strangely calm throughout the film, letting the viewer respond to what's happening on the screen.
Cuba's story is not over yet. Even as our own generation gazes into the dark past of this south sea island paradise, the Cuban people are still struggling with a dated, failing and tarnished vision of what the people really need. This was a very revealing film and has made a changed my view of this country forever. Perhaps, like many other people who like to get away for a winter holiday, I wasn't prepared to see where this island has come from. I just wanted to go and enjoy what they had to offer and come home again. But this film has shown that these people have a history, and all you have to do is look a little closer to see that they have paid a dear price to get where they are today. Unfortunately, their struggle is not over yet.