Soy Cuba is a 1964 Soviet-Cuban film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Four stories in Batista’ Cuba dramatize the need for revolution through innovative filming techniques and a female narrarator who says things such as “Soy Cuba. Why are you running away? You came to have fun. Don’t avert your eyes! Casinos and hotels are what you came for. But I am also the land, children, and elders.”
The first story depicts that shame of a young prostitute “Betty”. This story shows Cuba’s dualistic nature, the poor side of the slums and the elaborate night scene. As Betty and the American leave the club before going back to her broken-down shack, the American tells her it would be “interesting” to see where she lives. She responds simply that it’s not interesting. The next day after he leaves Betty’s shack, he walks through the slum as children mob him and beg for money and the camera shows the faces of poor children and elders. The slum belonged to the Afro-Cubans, and it depicted the racial division of the time. However, Cubans at the time did not believe there was a racial problem. People believed “if racial differences were to be found , they were due to blacks lack of education and inferiority complex,” and further the people who acknowledged the racial problems “were underestimating the social significance of the independence movement…” (Alejandro dela Fuente, 49)
The second story takes us to the cane-field of an old farmer, Pedro, when he discovers his land and crops are not his anymore and they are being bought by the American United Fruit Company. Pedro tells his children to go into town to “celebrate” while he stays behind and burns his crops. It’s sad because the children go into town to celebrate, singing about Havana, dancing, and believing their lives will be better, not realizing the hardship that awaits. Since the revolution, the sugar cane industry has changed significantly. According to Eckstein, the significance of Cuba’s dependence on sugar has changed. “Sugar workers, for example, enjoy more social benefits, job security, and earnings-in comparison to other workers-than before the revolution (Eckstein 513). The whole dynamic of the sugar industry changed after the revolution.
The third and fourth stories portray events involving some of the films protagonists, like Enrique and Mariano. Enrique and his gang are upper-middle class university students from Havana. After they voice their dissatisfaction with Batista, a couple of them are shot for protesting against the oppression of the Batista regime. The revolution was a popular movement among students. “For Latin American socialists-including more and more students, union leaders, and young people in general-the Cuban Revolution had a lot to show. It had vastly increased educational opportunities, making decisive strides toward full literacy and exemplary public health.” (Chasteen 272)
For Enrique, rebel troops are gathering to the sounds of radio broadcasts. As the men gather, the radio celebrates their struggle. A rebel runs into Mariano and tells him, “I knew you would come.” Mariano says that he needs a rifle. The freedom fighter tells him that he has to capture a gun in battle, as they have all done. As they sing the Cuban anthem, the rebels battle government troops and celebrate their victory. I believe there is more truth to this movie than people think, and that almost all members of Cuban society were represented at some point throughout the film. I also liked the camera movements and angles, it gave the movie a more personal feeling and intensified the different stories.