Mikhail Kalatozov's "Soy Cuba"
...more innovation in a single sequence than in the last five years of contemporary cinema put together...
Enrique Pineda Barnet
Luz María Collazo
Mario González Broche
Shot in 1964, when the Cold War was at its frostiest, director Mikhail Kalatozov's "I Am Cuba" is a blatant piece of Communist propaganda that charts the rise of the Cuban revolution with a rousing script by Russian poet Yevtushenko.
Following four separate stories - a prostitute in Havana who is mistreated by her client; a farmer who is thrown off his sugar cane fields by a greedy landowner; student revolutionaries fighting the police; and the rallying of Castro's forces in the hills - "I Am Cuba" shows the inevitability of the Marxist overthrow of the capitalist state.
Given its political bent, it seems surprising that Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have been pivotal in rescuing this film from cinematic obscurity.
Five minutes into this amazing work and it's obvious why they were so keen to be involved in re-releasing it - the film's politics aren't half as radical as its artistry.
From the moment the film begins - at a pool party among the skyscrapers of Havana - Kalatozov works his way through every camera angle and shooting set-up imaginable.
There's more innovation in a single sequence than in the last five years of contemporary cinema put together.
The camera gives us a kaleidoscopic vision of Cuban life, racing through sugar cane fields, gyrating around the Havana nightclubs, zooming in and out of the revolutionary struggle, ranging up and down the sides of buildings and even, in one truly jaw-dropping sequence, cruising high above a funeral procession through the city's streets.
The story may be a facilely idealistic piece of propaganda, but it's (accidentally?) subverted by Kalatozov's love of cinema.
This rewrites the textbook of how to shoot a film.
It's a vibrant, joyous piece of technical accomplishment that's probably one of the most relentlessly innovative films you'll ever see.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Reviewed by Jamie Russell