I Am Cuba
Astonishing, unprecedented cinematographic techniques tell the stories of four Cubans suffering under Batista's dictatorship and capitalist imperialism in this newly restored pro-revolutionary Soviet cult classic.
"I am Cuba is finally more than just a celebration of a revolution. It is a dream of life in which everything is reduced to black and white."—The New York Times
Soviet propaganda movies were once one of the punch lines of film culture, all tractor ballets and paeans to superhuman productivity on the Volga. But, given carte blanche in 1964 to celebrate the USSR's new relationship with Cuba just after the island's revolution, director Mikhail Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky ran with it. The subject matter is as expected: four short stories outlining the sufferings of Cubans (farmers, a student, a prostitute in the Mafia-run fleshpots of Havana) under Batista's overthrown rapacious regime. (Which it unquestionably was; it was also U.S.-backed.) But it's the bravura cinematic technique that makes this a must-see: underwater scenes that use special submarine technology, a camera that whips vertiginously back and forth to follow the hacking of a machete, seemingly endless how-the-f-did-he-do-that tracking shots. It's all in the service of the heart-on-sleeve impact of the four stories, and a throbbingly poetic voice-over turns the emotional screw even tighter. Forgotten for 30 years—Soviets thought it not anti-capitalist enough, Cubans found it patronizing and stereotypical, and hardly anyone else saw it—it was rediscovered and brought back to cinephiles' attention in the early '90s by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and got a new 4K restoration just this year. It's visually ravishing, unabashedly melodramatic, and a little bit nuts.
Mikhail Kalatozov, a Georgian and Russian film director and a People's Artist of the USSR, was born in 1903 in what is now known as Tbilisi, Georgia. He studied economics and changed professions multiple times before beginning his filmmaking career in 1923, working as a writer, cameraman, and producer before making his solo directorial debut in 1930 with the doc Salt for Svanetia. During World War II, Kalatozov directed several propaganda films and worked as a cultural attaché at the Soviet Embassy in the U.S., and later was appointed Deputy Film Minister of the Soviet Union. He is best known for his World War II drama, The Cranes Are Flying (1958), which won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. His son Georgi followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a cinematographer and film director at the Georgian Film studio, as did Kalatozov's grandson, Mikhail Kalatozishvili. His 1964 Soviet-Cuban propaganda film I Am Cuba was not received well by Cuban or Russian audiences during its initial screenings, and was almost completely forgotten until it was rediscovered and restored by U.S. filmmakers 30 years later. Kalatozov died in Moscow in 1973 after his seventh heart attack.
Sponsored by KING 5
- Original Language Title: Soy Cuba
- Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
- Principal Cast: Luz Maria Collazo, Sergio Corrieri, Salvador Wood, Jose Gallardo, Raul Garcia
- Country: Cuba, Soviet Union
- Year: 1964
- Running Time: 141 minutes
- Producer: Mikhail Kalatozov
- Screenplay: Enrique Pineda Barnet, Yevgeni Yevtushenko
- Cinematographers: Sergey Urusevsky
- Editors: Nina Glagoleva
- Music: Carlos Farinas
- Awards: National Society of Film Critics Awards USA 1996 (Archival Award)
- Filmography: The Red Tent (1969); Letter Never Sent (1960); The Cranes Are Flying (1957); The First Echelon (1956); True Friends (1954); Hostile Whirlwinds (1953); Conspiracy of the Doomed (1950); Moscow Music Hall (1946); Invincible (1943); Wings of Victory (1941)
- Language: Spanish, English, Russian
- Has Subtitles: Yes
- Format: DCP
- US Distributor: Milestone Film & Video