Soy Cuba (1964) depicts the events that led up to the Cuban revolution of 1959 and the revolution itself. Directed by Russian director Mihkail Kalatozov, the film focuses on the poor and downtrodden of Cuba, sharply contrasting their lives, with the lifestyle of the wealthy, showing a huge disparity between rich and poor. This is highlighted in one of the first scenes of the movie. The opening scene shows the wealthy partying at a luxury hotel or casino. Later we see a nightclub, in which a number of American businessmen, played rather comically by Russian actors, are relaxing and enjoying the company of what one assumes to be prostitutes. The film then introduces a poor Cuban girl who seems to frequent the night club, one of the Americans goes back with her to her place and pays her for sex. This young Cuban girls lives in a very poverty-stricken slum. As the American leaves in the morning, he is hounded by children begging for a little money. The poverty in this scene is quite striking juxtaposed to the extravagant lifestyle shown in the previous scenes. A Coca-Cola bottle is visible in a tub of bottles that a poor woman is cleaning, most likely to be sold later. It seems as though the film is trying to consciously show the negative influence of the United States on the Cuban poor.
It appears that most of the poor living in deplorable conditions in the slum are of African decent, highlighting one of the reason for the revolution. Though the Cuban elite tended to stress that they were ideologically supporting the equality of blacks and whites, this did not, in reality, take place. According to Alejandro de Fuente, “…researchers recognize, that once established and accepted, these myths became, as Viotti da Costa (1985: 235) puts it, an integral part of social reality, but moving only in one direction; that of subordination and demobilization of blacks.” (de Fuente, 45) There was apparently a good deal of economic disparity between races during the reign of Baptista.
Another scene in the film, which demonstrates economic hardship takes place on a poor sugar-cane farmers land he is apparently renting from a wealthier Cuban. As the scene opens he seems to be exited about the harvest he will soon be able to sell. However, while he and his children are cutting the cane, the owner of the property tells him that he has sold the land to a large company and the farmer and his family must leave. He sends his family into the town, were they enjoy coca-colas, and he sets fire to his house and crop. This scene highlights the growing resentment of peasant farmers to the takeover by large companies, friendly with Baptista, and economic problems it caused for the small-scale farmer. One of the aims of the revolution was to redistribute land to smaller farmers and allow for more economic equality. Eckstein states that, “The reform extended property rights to some 100,000 sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and squatters.” (Epstein, 519)
Though from a relatively bias point of view, Soy Cuba does give one a glimpse into the frustration of those who took part in the revolution of 1959 and demonstrates some of their reasons for doing so.