Soy Cuba

Soy Cuba is a Soviet Union-Cuban film shot in 1964. The plot is constructed around telling individual stories rather than following a single major story line throughout the film. The common theme to the four stand alone story lines is essentially how the Cuban government and the American business presence in Cuba was oppressing the Cuban people. The film goes on to depict the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Shot only 5 years after the revolution, the film is pro communism but not exactly fully anti-American, as if the movie was truly trying to be a piece of propaganda, it would have been far more heavy-handed in its approach.

Alejandro de la Fuente writes that while there still existed some racial issues within Cuban society by 1959, the situation had been improved some from earlier periods. The racism/racial status that does exist in the film is largely involves Americans living in Cuba. The men at the bar who “exploit” local girls including Maria are wealth Americans. American sailors also accost a young girl by chasing her down the street. In each of these cases though, it seem more an act of status rather than a racist act. Further, the America characters in question are not portrayed as all bad, with Maria getting paid and the sailors walking away without hurting the girl. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the film was not successful in Cuba or the Soviet Union, it simply was not one sided enough. Fuente writes that Cuba was very outspoken about America’s treatment of African Americans. Americans did not fit the typical narrative in Soy Cuba.

Prior to the Revolution, Cuba was heavily dependent on foreign trade with the United States. Historian Susan Eckstein writes that as soon as the Revolution was successful, the government nationalized the country’s lucrative sugar industry. For the purposes of the movie, this detail works strangely with the story of Pedro, who is too lose his land to an American based company. The nationalization of the whole farm system could have led to Pedro and others like him losing their land to the government anyway, not to mention the potential lose of income given the reduction in trade following the Communist takeover. The film’s inclusion of Pedro and there-go the plight of the farmers of Cuba seems an odd choice if someone was trying to construct the typical argument that a Communist Revolution was necessary to save the Cuban people. The shooting of the movie most certainly was coinciding with an agrarian reform that seized holdings larger than 67 hectares. Perhaps the movie is using the example of the poor farmer  Pedro’s loss of his land as a justification for taking away larger landowners. This would match up with the history of Cuba before and after the revolution, as the elites left or had their property seized y the state. Eckstein goes further to say that Cuba remains one of the most trade-vulnerable economies. Sugar workers, however, did experience better social standing and security after the war, but this was due to advanced technology rather than the politics of Cuba.

Overall, Soy Cuba does an effective job of showing the lives of more everyday people in the run up to revolution. The film also has some very effective and well done shots, if somewhat on the long side.