Comandante

Movie Review by Almiro Jorge

Starring: Fidel Castro, Oliver Stone
Director: Oliver Stone

Some thirty hours of footage shot in three days and nights by director, Oliver Stone, has been edited into a 90-minute length documentary that culminates the essential moments of politics, family life and entertainment in the life of Castro. In the beginning we hear that Castro may say “cut” if he wants the filming to halt, although he does not appear to use this right.

Opening with footage of the 1959 revolution that sees the overthrowing of the Batista regime in Cuba, Stone inter-cuts the interviews with archive newsreels and speeches. Castro reminisces about his opinions of some American and Russian leaders quite openly and bluntly. He also speaks touchingly about Eva Peron (accompanied by ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’), and freedom fighter, Che Guevara. Castro’s viewpoints on the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion were immensely interesting, describing Cuba as a country caught between two superpowers, the USSR and the US.

There is a certain intimacy, in that Castro reveals that he has saved months of time in not shaving and then proceeds to show his exercise routine as he strides about in his office. The nonchalant ways in which both Castro and Stone crack jokes also portray the familiarity in the interviews. As Stone searches the inside of the car, Castro wittingly says, “It’s a good thing I didn’t bring my secret papers”. There is also a comment about the papers reading, “Stone smuggles Viagra to Castro”.

Perversely the film is almost an attempt to brainwash the viewer into liking this dictator. Ironically, Castro makes us aware that he understands how the US public accept the words of the government and free media which he sees as lies.

The documentary is entirely shot with multiple handheld cameras, one camera sometimes showing the other cameras and microphone in the frame. Constant extreme close-ups also show the level at which Stone is trying to interview Castro but it is a very softly-softly approach. A great soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias is also used to create emotion.

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