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Cuba: An African Odyssey


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1-Disc Version

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Product Details

  • Actors: Cuba: An African Odyssey
  • Directors: Jihan El Tahri
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: ARTE
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 190 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013B34XU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,419 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

This revealing, award-winning documentary adds to our understanding of the Cold War through its least-known context Africa.
From 1961 to 1991, the Dark Continent was a battleground for four different competing interests. The Soviet Union wanted to extend its influence into a new continent; the U.S. lusted after Africa s natural resources; former European empires felt their grip on the area weaken; and, newly formed African nations fought to defend their recently won independence. When the latter called on Cuban guerillas to aid them in their struggle, Castro and Cuba stepped in to build a new offensive strategy, which would have long-lasting influence on developing countries in their battles against colonialism.
From Che Guevara s efforts in the Congo to the triumphant battle at Cuito Cuanavale, CUBA: AN AFRICAN ODYSSEY tells the story of those internationalists who won their battles but ultimately lost the war.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Catalpa on December 11, 2008
Cuba: An African Odyssey is a brilliantly-executed documentary on Cuban involvement in Africa from the 1960s to the 1980s. It's a two-dvd package, the first dealing mainly with Congo in the early 60s, the second with Cuba's intervention in Angola in the 70s and 80s. The director Jihan El-Tahri includes interviews with many of the power-players involved, from Fidel Castro to Pik Botha. It includes fabulous archive footage, in particular of Congo at the time of Lumumba's assassination. Then CIA station chief Larry Devlin puts his version on the record. It documents Che Guevara's intervention in the Eastern Congo, which, strangely, is sometimes hilarious. The Cubans age well. Some of them look like they could do it all again, almost fifty years later. It's the best high-profile documentary I've seen, and that's unqualified. It gives the viewer a crash-course in the sequence of cynicism that resulted in the manmade tragedy of Sub-Saharan Africa today. Watching old men trying to make their peace before they meet their maker can be far more revealing than the subject of the interview realises. Absolutely excellent, I'm buying it for Christmas for all my friends.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Ping on March 29, 2010
This is an impressive and surprisingly balanced first-hand account of what really happened in Angola. The production team interviewed South Africans, Cubans, and Angolans to compile a visceral account of how Angola came to be a cold-war battleground between the US, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and South Africa. The film starts with a stunning and revealing question: Why did Nelsen Mandela choose to visit Cuba and embrace Fidel Castro for his first international trip? The rest of the film answers this question by covering Cuba's involvement in Congo and Angola. In the end, the Cubans swung the deal by agreeing to leave Angola if the South Africans would leave Namibia and release Mandela. The film also covers the reasoning behind the US funding for UNITA and Cuba's extensive support to the eventual victors (MPLA). It is also a disturbing tale of how US paranoia helped produce an African arms race that need never have taken place, all in an effort to contain a Soviet threat that never existed.

Perhaps the most interesting characters are Castro and his lieutenants. It's easy to lose site of Cuba's totalitarian, oppressive regime in all the full-throated, enthusiasm to bring freedom to Africa. One highly interesting point is a portion of the film that describes the advice of Russian advisors who insisted the MPLA aggressively assault enemy positions only to be pasted time and time again. It was only after Castro himself began directing the war effort (over the phone!) that MPLA/Cuban combined forces were able to crush UNITA forces. There is also an entertaining aside about Jorge Bisquet (and a personal interview with him) about his constant cigar smoking during the negotiations. The production team did not ignore the American side and included remarkably frank interviews of Crocker.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Miguel Faria on January 9, 2012
I was not going to write a review of this interesting documentary because another reviewer "Mark" had already done an excellent review, but seeing that two persons have been so critical of his review, I have decided to enter the fray. I should know something of this topic, not only as an area of my own historic expertise, but also as one my favorite uncles was conscripted in the Cuban army and was a participant in this Cuban adventure, serving honorably in Angola.

This documentary should have been entitled Cuba- African adventurism and combat by proxy in the superpower conflict during the cold war.

This is a well-done but terribly biased documentary that glorifies communist Cuba and her heroes in the repressive pantheon of the workers' paradise. Part 1 of this documentary relates to the Congo and the war for independence from Belgium. Then it proceeds with the struggle for power between communist Patrice Lumumba, who is idolized, and his successor, Laurent Kabila, against (Joseph) Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997), who eventually won and ruled with an iron hand as a socialist dictator.

Then Che Guevara enters the picture in this Congolese civil war and despite a hero-worship tribute treatment of this communist icon, the producers are forced to admit that Che's misadventure was a disastrous and colossal failure. We are not told that, if there was a real communist hero, it was General Arnaldo Ochoa, who rescued Che from the claws of his enemies in 1965, when, while in full retreat the Argentinean got lost and nearly perished trying to reach Lake Tanganyika, his desperate escape route. General Ochoa, who later became a potential political opponent of Fidel Castro, was accused of drug smuggling and shot in Cuba as a scapegoat after a kangaroo trial in 1989.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Glade on August 20, 2009
This documentary is instrumental in understanding some of the unknown influences Castro, Guevara and the Cuban Revolution had on the world especially on the Nationalists and Leftists in the developing world.
It also illustrates the nature of the Soviet-Cuban relationship and how Castro utilized the massive amounts of Soviet military and logistical aid he received during the Cold War.
Whether you respect or despise Castro there is no doubt that he has made an indelible mark on history.
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