A/V Room









Commadante (PG)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

SHOT in three days and edited down from 30 hours of film to one and a half hours, this is Oliver Stone's documentary of the time he spent with Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader.

One of the film's 'selling' points is that Castro did not cut anything from what was filmed, even though he was given the opportunity to do just that.

Can we imagine Tony Blair being so restrained; Er, possibly not.
Anyway, what we get is the great revolutionary, that's Castro not Blair, talking candidly about his life and times since he and his band of Fidelistas overthrew the corrupt Battista regime in 1959.

What we learn, trivia-wise, is that Fidel wears Nike trainers and he quite liked the film Titanic.

On a more serious note, we discover that Cuba has one of the best health systems in the world, and that since Fidel came to power, the graduate population of Cuba has risen from 30,000 to 700,000.

Not bad for a regime that has been subject to a trade embargo from the USA almost from day one.

Inevitably, Che Guevara, Fidel's right hand man in the revolution, is referred to on several occasions, as is Cuba's military involvement in Angola and Vietnam and the Russian missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

We also get to hear Fidel's theory about the assassination of John F Kennedy, and his views on God.

Interspersed with the talking-head shots is archive film of Fidel and his band of revolutionaries pre and post-overthrow and, contemporary footage of the great leader meeting his people, who, it has to be said, seem to have a genuine affection for him.

Which is all very well and good, as Castro is open and honest and displays a good sense of humour, while the history of his regime is never less than interesting.

But what rankles is Stone's motivation for making this film. One can't help feeling that in choosing to interview Castro, without any real, in-depth contribution from the Cuban public or examination of the country's political and economic infrastructure, he is, in fact, simply showing off: you want access to Castro? I can get you access. Oh, yeah, he's a good friend of mine.

In short, it smacks of self-indulgence.

Worth seeing, but not really a night-out-at-the-cinema sort of deal. Wait for the video.

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