Thursday 26 January 2017
Mikhail Kalatozov | 140 mins
Just two months ago, Fidel Ruiz Castro, the former President of Cuba for 56 years, died aged 90. Despite the criticisms of his regime, few could argue with the achievements which included the creation of, arguably, the world’s finest health care system and the breaking of South African apartheid.
Kalatozov’s ground-breaking film, produced between 1963/4, offers various insights into the fleshpots of the playground that was La Havana under the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Bataista for the benefit of the US mafia, corrupt politicians and rotten elites whilst Cubans lived under grinding poverty unparalleled elsewhere in the Western hemisphere.
The film’s perspective shifts to the activities of student revolutionaries and to the battlefields of the Sierra Madre where Castro’s M16 movement spent two and a half years fighting, and overcoming, Batista’s forces. The camera work is both head of its time whilst recreating classic Soviet cinema with scenes reminiscent of those seen in classics such as Battleship Potemkin. An unmissable and timely reminder of human aspiration trumping degradation.