I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba)
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
Production on this film started only a week after the Cuban missile crisis and was designed to be Cuba’s answer to both Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Jean-Luc Godard’s freewheeling romance, Breathless. Instead, I Am Cuba turned out to be something quite unique — a wildly schizophrenic celebration of Communist kitsch, mixing Slavic solemnity with Latin sensuality.
The plot, or rather plots, feverishly explore the seductive, decadent, and marvelously photogenic world of Batista’s Cuba — deliriously juxtaposing images of rich Americans and bikini-clad beauties sipping cocktails poolside with scenes of ramshackle slums filled with hungry children and gaunt old people. Using wide-angle lenses that distort and magnify and filters that transform palm trees into giant white feathers, cinematographer Sergey Urusevsky’s acrobatic camera achieves wild gravity-defying angles as it glides effortlessly through long continuous shots. I Am Cuba is not just a catalog of bravura technique—it also succeeds in exploring the innermost feelings of the characters and their often desperate situations.
The first movie ever jointly presented by master filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, I Am Cuba is one of the great discoveries in cinema. 1964, Cuba/USSR, 4K DCP Restoration, in Spanish with English subtitles, 141 minutes. Recommended for 13+.