More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Cuba has always had a certain allure to many people, cigars aside. The perennial underdog against its U.S. neighbour in a relationship that had been at best frosty since Castro and his revolutionary party overthrew Batista, who by any measure wasn’t a very nice man. Whether Castro being in power is much better is something that I can only leave to your individual politics.

Castro has been a thorn in many American presidents side over the past few decades, as has director Oliver Stone to a far lesser extent. While it’s hardly inevitable that they would meet it’s been an ambition of Stone’s for a some time and it’s been realised here in this interview session taking place over three days. Some 30 hours of footage has been edited down to 100 minutes of Stone and Castro chatting away about the story of the Cuban revolution and the slings and arrows that their hostile neighbours have been flinging their way since that event.

There’s a real danger of flying off on a tangent while writing about this as it for once is purely about politics and there’s nowt as controversial as that. You don’t need me to start analysing America’s dabbling in the government of other nations or the record of Castro since assuming power. I’ll leave that up to professional commentators or the opinion page of The Sun, depending on how much you care to think for yourself.

As a film, a subject I feel a little better qualified to talk about, it’s a pretty captivating experience. Stone and Castro seem to have established a genuine rapport over the course of the filming and it means the whole thing barrels along nicely enough. It’s shot on camcorder level equipment which is more than acceptable for the intentions of the film although it does miss an opportunity to showcase the splendour of the country as Stone tags along with Castro’s frequent walkabouts among his people.

Castro appears to be genuinely loved by his people and it’s impressive to see the adulation directed at him but it also empathises exactly how one sided the story presented here is. Stone rarely challenges Castro’s version of events so it’s left up to the individual to decide whether to trust him or not. Almost certainly he isn’t lying. No politician lies. They are, after all professional communicators and don’t need to actually lie when the same effect can be achieved with careful omissions and half-truths. Not lying these days doesn’t necessarily equate to trustworthiness, and you’ll have to make that judgement yourself.

Stone doesn’t interrogate Castro about his darker side much, and the only controversy this film would generate will be that it’s a very light and happy view of life in Cuba and of the history of the country. Stone’s prodding about a vague and nebulous New World Order is met with sensible and uncontroversial responses from Castro that seems to disappoint the director, although I think there’s some conceptual mis-understanding between what Castro and Stone understand as a ‘New World Order’. As neither side define what they believe this Order to be we’ll never be sure, although I hope they don’t believe the same things that David Icke does about the N.W.O.

The lack of much historical background means that it is occasionally difficult to follow for those not relatively familiar with Cuba’s history but there’s enough details about famous situations like the Bay Of Pigs fiasco that everyone ought to be able to take something of interest away from it. Were it presented as an exhaustive history of Cuba this lack of detail and lack of counterpoints would make it unsatisfactory, but it’s only ever claimed to be an personal interview with Fidel Castro. As such it’s a great success and ought to keep anyone who has ever had a passing interest in Cuba enthralled. It’s also entirely unique, and how often can you say that about anything you see in a cinema? If there’s any justice this will make a killer DVD, but it’s also good enough to recommend that you catch now as well as later.