Top critical review
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on October 22, 2011
My experience with Fidel Castro until now has just been viewing footage of him shouting in spanish on a podium. For me, I didn't even care about the politics, I was just hoping to gain insight into the mind of a dictator. It was interesting to hear Castro speak and see how he behaves, but I ended up wishing Oliver Stone was more of a psychologist then a politician because I still think there is more to learn as far as that goes.
I at least learned that Castro is just a man after all. He seems to be a very intelligent, well-intentioned tyrant. In a lot of ways he has a grandfather tone about himself and does not at all seem like the menacing man I have been lead to believe he was. Stone probes Castro about retirement and relinquishing his position but Castro would have none of it.
I also got to experience bizarre sideways close-ups of Castro's beard and index finger. Yeah, the camera angles in this film were strange.
As far as the politics go, I am not sure what I was supposed to learn from all this. If I am to believe that Cuba is a good place to live because all children have to go to school and have health care then I am not buying it. Those are all good things but clearly Castro will not tolerate dissidents. In this film we were presented with an interview with a handful of prisoners accused of hijacking planes in an attempt to leave the country in the wake of 9/11. They argued that they should be sentenced to 30 years in prison instead of sentenced for life. Stone remarks that he would have asked for 5 years with parole, which seemed a bit more reasonable...
The prisoners stated that the only reason to leave was "economic reasons". Freedom of speech and political freedoms were not an issue for them. I am sure that is true, even if the prisoners were saying that with Castro's eye squarely placed upon them as they spoke, but there are clearly other reasons to leave. I don't believe it's just the embargo that is hurting Cuba, if that is what I was meant to conclude? In a surprising show of empathy though, Castro acknowledged that he understands the desire to buy cars, provide for your family, and watch baseball games. And then proceeds to allow the system to sentence them to 30 years in prison... Castro asks, if it was your responsibility, what would you do to prevent a wave of hijackings? Letting people leave on their own free will apparently was not an option.
The end of the film was most promising because we got to see Castro gaze upon his country from afar and lament on technology and the changing ways of the world. Unfortunately Stone interrupts all this to get back into politics. I say unfortunately because we were starting to see Castro as he really is: an old man trying as hard as the rest of us to understand the world. Castro's final remarks that the US would only accept complete surrender did indicate that the United States is as much a problem for Cuba as communism and Castro himself. I did end up walking away from this film wishing the US would help the Cuban people instead of playing silly political games.