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Oppressors in Society: “Soy Cuba” (1964) Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022

Soy Cuba (I am Cuba) is a film that accounts for a state of revolution that did not take place at all. The film appeared three decades late. The movie was directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. He used to be a great fanatic of moving pictures even during his early days of childhood (Rosenbaum 370). This film product was indeed a major accomplishment on his part.

During the 1960s, the Soviet Union was experiencing intense de-stalinization. At the same time, communist uprising that was considered to be popular erupted about 180 kilometers away from the shores of America. It is imperative to note that the focus of attention was Cuba (Holden 4).

In order to physically witness the progress of the revolution, key personalities such as Agnès Varda, Jean-Paul, and Sartre Chris Marker made their way to the island. They were also accompanied by several technicians, bureaucrats and advisors drawn from the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, they came along with a lot of financial resources from the Soviet Union so that they could help the situation that was running out of control (Rosenbaum 370).

The presence of ICAIC (a new film organization in Cuba) and Mosfilm led to the conception of the I am Cuba (Soy Cuba) film. The entire film project was headed by Kalatozov (Henderson par. 3). Sergio Corrieri also stars in this movie.

He was a notable film personality during the 1968 Memories of Underdevelopment. It is profound to note that the plot of the film was excellently developed from a rejection point to the level of obscurity. It has also been laced with multicultural background alongside a decent visual brilliance that captivates the audience.

From the film, it is possible to trace the Soviet’s history with a great sense of clarity. The movie has been divided into four main categories. In the first vignette, exploitation of the Batista era and moral corruption have been vividly depicted. The portrait of the countryside has been categorized as the second vignette.

The second classification of the film also reveals how the sugar trade was wrecked by inequalities. In the third vignette, violent protests by students in the city streets have been dramatized (Rahul 64). The last classification demonstrates the hills and countryside where armed rebellion was launched by Castro and the soldiers on the ground (guerrillas).

Although there are various melodramatic plots in the film that attempt to harmonize the four vignettes together, they are not very instrumental in the overall development of the theme and plot of the film, bearing in mind that both the visual representation and the elaborate sequences have been integrated so well that the actual flow and content can be assimilated easily by the audience.

The pre-Castro Havana resorts have been brought out in the film using well planned sequence camera shots that have been amazingly choreographed. Although they are simply imitated pieces, the audience is left with a feeling of reality moves that can be hardly differentiated from the actual scene (Nesbit par. 4).

The funeral ceremony of a student who was murdered due to his staunch religious beliefs is also depicted as part of the theme development (Rosenbaum 372). At this point, it is worth to note that the methodology used to capture certain sections of the funeral ceremony elicits various degrees of suspense. For instance, although the funeral scene has been captured in one camera shot, the picture plot is indeed dramatic.

The shot is initiated from the ground level where the coffin has been positioned. The camera is then shifted to acquire the aerial view at the top of the buildings followed by a dashing move along the cigar factory. It is finally projected on top of the swelling crowd on the city streets and over the mourners. The coffin has been covered with the Cuban flag. Moreover, the visible emotions on the face of the mourners leave the audience with a thrilling sight.

The scene where the Havana hotel is located is also another point of interest in the film. The Batista cronies, colonial exploiters as well as the dizzy world have been captured by the moving pictures. While the film depicts various scenes of exploitation and prosperity, the prevalence of poverty in Cuba has also been brought out.

It is apparent that the film also aims at juxtaposing the significant disparity that exists between the wealthy and poor citizens in this country. Although this divide has not been elaborated vividly, it is evident from the visible emotion of crowds in the streets and at the place of burial (Rahul 66).

The Havana hotel seems to be a place of happiness in spite of the sad moments down the streets. While the poor are suffering, the rich opressors are celebratng. The lifestyle of those who opress the weak individuals in society has been vividly captured by the film (Holden 3).

The film has managed to bring out the fantastic and exotic look of the Cuba island. It is also vital to mention that the movie has been structured in such a way that the various apects of the revoluton are well expounded through visual and dramatic illustrations.

In spite of the fact that there are several cast members, the film’s revolutionary rhetoric does not entirely rely on the characters in the scene because the vusual represenebation of various settings have clearly communicated the Cuban and Soviet’s settings alongside building the main themes.

The film has also exposed celebrated characters who may be perceived as heroes in the development of the plot. Some of the heroic characters in the movie include the exploited bar girl working in Havana by the name Betty, a poor cane cutter known as Pedro and a student leader (militant) by the name Enrique. Alberto is a popular character in the film because he has idenified himelf as a fredom fighter who hardly gets fatigued.

Even in the wake of celebrations by the oppresive class of wealthy people, the american businessmen are considered as enemies toward the progress of the ordinary Cuban people. They even explot the Havana bar girls through commercial prostitution. One of the most inflamatory scenes in the movie is presence of the american sailors.

As the latter sing a jingoist anthem, a lady is frightened and decides to escape through the empty city streets. This type of fear is a clear indication of how the poor Cubans are living in poverty coupled with insecurity and uncertainity for the future (Henderson par. 2).

One of the most outstanding scenes that compels the audience to watch “I am Cuba” is the visionary cinematography created by Sergei Urusevky. The latter makes the film to stand out beyond a mere relic of Communist kitsch.

For instance, the burning passions of the affected segments of the population and the explosive polarities of the ensuing revolution have been illustrated by the black and white photography laced with high contrast color setting. This visual impression has been illuminated through the inky skies as well as the sugar cane and palm tree fields.

The wide angle lenses of cameras have been used frequently in the film. Indeed, there is a good reason why such distortion angles have been employed when capturing various scenes in the movie. For example, the Havana nightlife is elaborately depicted using such camera angles.

The surrealism of such scenes has also been enhanced with the wide-angled camera lens. In addition, tourists who are clad in bikini have also been captured from the deck of the Havana hotel. The sequence of the shots begins from the pool sides to regions below the vast pool waters (Henderson par. 3).

It is vital to reiterate that the movie goes beyond mere celebration for a state of revolution. Every aspect in the film depicts dreams that have been truncated to black and white. In a more rhetoric manner, the plot, content and theme of the film can be analogous to the popular saying you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

On a final note, it is prudent to underscore the fact that such a masterpiece production may lack significance to certain segments of the audience who do not fully identify themselves with the events of the soviet’s revolution or the massive social disparities witnessed in Cuba during the time depicted in the movie.

Nonetheless, the most outstanding theme that is worth recalling in the film is the social malpractice that has left certain people more impoverished. It is evident from the film that the main role of the oppressors in society is to undermine and exploit the weak individuals. While there may be promises and positive hope for the future, uncertainty and despair is a glaring reality in the face of the disadvantaged population.

Works Cited

Henderson, Jonathan. Soy Cuba. 14 Nov. 2010. Web.

Holden, Stephen. . 8 Mar. 1995. Web.

Nesbit, John. I am Cuba (1964). 2006. Web.

Rahul, Hamid. I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition. Cineaste. 33(2008): 64-66. Print.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2004. Print.

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