- I Am Cuba
name = I am Cuba" (Spanish: "Soy Cuba"; Russian: "Я - Куба""', "Ya - Kuba")
Bela Fridman Semyon Maryakhin Miguel Mendoza
writer = Enrique Pineda Barnet
starring = Sergio Corrieri
released = fy|1964
country = CUB
language = Spanish/Russian
imdb_id = 0058604
amg_id = 1:172821
"I am Cuba" (Spanish: "Soy Cuba"; Russian: "Я Куба", "Ya Kuba)" is a Soviet/
Cuban film produced in 1964 by director Mikhail Kalatozovat Mosfilm.The movie was not received well by either the Russian or Cuban public [ [http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/the_new_cult_canon_i_am_cuba The New Cult Canon: I am Cuba] . AV Club, May 1. 2008.] and was almost completely forgotten until it was re-discovered by filmmakers in the United States30 years later. [ [http://www.avclub.com/content/feature/the_new_cult_canon_i_am_cuba The New Cult Canon: I am Cuba] . AV Club, May 1. 2008.] The movie's acrobatic tracking shots and idiosyncratic mise en sceneprompted Hollywooddirectors like Martin Scorseseto begin a campaign to restore the movie in the early 1990s.
Shortly after the 1959
Cuban revolutionoverthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the socialist Castro government, isolated by the United Statesafter the latter broke diplomatic and trade relations in 1961, turned to the USSRfor film partnerships. The Soviet government, interested in promoting international socialism, agreed to finance a film about the Cuban revolution.
The director was given considerable freedom to complete the work, and was given much help from both the Soviet and Cuban governments. They made use of innovative filming techniques, such as coating a watertight camera's lens with a special
submarineperiscope cleaner, so the camera could be submerged and lifted out of the water without any drops on the lens or film. At one point, more than a thousand Cuban soldiers were moved to a remote location to shoot one scene — this despite the then-ongoing Cuban missile crisis.
Even though it had such great support, the movie was given a cold reaction by audiences. In
Havanait was criticized for showing a rather stereotyped view of Cubans, while in Moscowit was considered naïve, not revolutionaryenough, even too sympathetic to the lives of the bourgeoispre-Fidel classes. Also, upon its original release, the movie never reached Western countries largely due to it being a Communistproduction.
When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, "I Am Cuba" was virtually unknown. In 1992, Cuban novelist
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the guest co-director of the Telluride Film Festival, screened a print of the film at the festival as part of a retrospective on Kalatazov. The San Francisco International Film Festivalscreened the film in 1993. Shortly after the festival, three film professionals who had screened "I Am Cuba" at the San Francisco screening contacted friends at Milestone Films in New York. The tiny film distributor had released several "lost" or neglected older films (as it continues to do). Milestone watched a blurry unsubtitled VHS tape of the film and then went about acquiring the distribution rights from Mosfilm in Russia. In 1994, a friend invited Martin Scorseseto a private screening. Scorsese was amazed by the film, and when Milestone approached him to lend his name to the company's release of the film, he was happy and enthusiastic to do so. Milestone's release was also co-presented by another fan of "I Am Cuba", director Francis Ford Coppola. Milestone's release opened at New York's Film Forumin March 1995. For the tenth anniversary of the film, Milestone debuted a new 35 mm restoration of "I am Cuba" without the Russian overdubbing in September 2005.
What most amazes
cinephileaudiences about this movie are the long takes (cf. the much later Russian Ark). Initially a three minute aerial shot of rural tropical landscape is disrupted by an infamous jumpcut to the top of a hotel building where a beauty contestis going on accompanied by raucous pop music. The camera, using a wide angle lens, moves among the contestants, goes out of the building, moves downwards for two stories into a club then circles around the bartenders. It then enters the pool and actually goes underwater, where the shot ends. In fact, the original scene went on for longer: the camera actually left the water (special submarine lenses cleaned off water droplets), but Kalatozov decided to cut this scene from the final movie. This scene was appropriated by Paul Thomas Andersonin his film " Boogie Nights", when the camera is tracking around a pool, and then goes under water, and the sound changes, just like in "I Am Cuba".
There is also a remarkable four minute scene of a slowly retreating long shot of a burning sugar cane field and house. This scene was later appropriated by
Andrei Tarkovskyin " The Sacrifice" (1986).
In another scene, the camera follows a coffin between a crowded street. Then it stops and slowly moves upwards for at least four stories until it is filming the coffin from above a building. Without stopping it then starts
panningsideways and enters through a window into a cigar factory, then goes straight towards a window where the cigar workers are watching the coffin. The camera finally passes through the window and, still following the court , appears to float over the street between the buildings. These shots were accomplished by assembling a line of technicians, and passing the camera down the line, from hand to hand.
The movie consists of four distinct short stories about the suffering of the Cuban people and their reactions, varying from passive amazement in the first, to a guerrilla march in the last. Between the stories, a female
narrator(credited "The Voice Of Cuba") says such things as, "I am Cuba, the Cuba of the casinos, but also of the people."
The first story (centred on the character Maria) shows the destitute Cuban masses contrasted with the splendor in the American-run gambling casinos and prostitution in Havana. The next story is about a farmer, Pedro, burning his sugar cane when he learns he is going to lose his land to
United Fruit. The third story describes the suppression of rebellious students led by a character name Enrique at Havana University (featuring one of the longest camera shots). The final part shows how Mariano, a typical farmer, ends up joining the rebels in the Sierra MaestraMountains, ultimately leading to triumphal march into Havanato proclaim the revolution.
In 2005 a documentary about the making of "I Am Cuba" was released called "Soy Cuba: O Mamute Siberiano" or "I Am Cuba: the Siberian Mammoth" directed by a Brazilian,
Vicente Ferraz. The film looks at the history of the making of the film, explains some of the technical feats of the film and there are interviews with many of the people who worked on it.
Cinema of Cuba
* [http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:172821 Entry in All movie guide]
* [http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1639563,00.html "From Russia with Love", an article by Richard Gott from "The Guardian" November 2005]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyS2yMeBOhg "I am Cuba" trailer]
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