Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Celluloid Cuba

David and I recently watched the fantastic film The Motorcycle Diaries. The film chronicles Che Guevara traveling through South America where, upon seeing great poverty and illness as well as social and economic exploitation, he began to formulate his political theories and to advocate a unified Latin America. While some reviewers have pointed to the fact that Che Guevara was in fact a man who also supported vindictive violence, the film offers a beautiful image of thoughtful reflection as well as absolute commitment to justice and to peace.

Learning about Che (as seen in popular film but also alternate portrayals made by academics) led us to learn more about Cuba as well, given Che's leadership in the Cuban Revolution. We soon heard about a film made in 1964 but not released in the US until 1995: I Am Cuba. The film, made by Soviet and Cuban filmmakers working together,is often portrayed by Americans as pure propaganda, but in reality both Cuban authorities and Soviet authorities condemned the film as counterrevolutionary. No matter what your politics or your beliefs, the movie is visually one of the most stunning works I have ever seen--full of "visual pyrotechnics" as one reviewer says. The message of the destructive nature of social inequality is extremely powerful. But the ending--that the violent overthrow of the government is the happy answer--left me trembling.

A film about the current state of affairs in Cuba, The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, carries the revolutionary story forward. At the filmmakers summarize, "When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half--and food by 80 percent--people were desperate." The filmmakers tell that in the film, "Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. [The movie] is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call 'The Special Period.' The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced [the full ramifications of oilfield decline] is an example of options and hope."

Can the rest of the world face the crisis of global Peak Oil with the same commitment to health care and education for all?


The Tell-Tale Heart said...

I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of I am Cuba with The Power of Community. They each shared a view of our southern neighbor rarely seen in everyday America. While I thought Power of Community could have benefited from a bit of Hollywood screen writing, editing, and cinema, it provides hope for those of discovering our Peak Oil future.

jasmine said...

I have a great book to recommend on Cuba -- I thought that it seemed to protray Cuba accurately from what I could observe there on my visit (having friends in the Foreign Service has benefits). However, the book is at home. I will try to remember to come back and post the title later


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