(Post and image from Repeating Islands)
When Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov was commissioned to make a film about the Cuban Revolution, he set out to make a Battleship Potemkin for the Cuban people. The film he made instead, I Am Cuba(1964), was a hallucinatory, freewheeling work of communist kitsch, a pastiche of Soviet and Cuban symbolism that tried to combine camp and revolution; a sprawling story whose narratives never quite run together, all shot with a gravity-defying, always-on-the-move, “emotional” camera; a cinephile’s wet dream, the film about which Werner Herzog once said anyone who hadn’t seen it didn’t deserve to be a cinematographer. Or, that’s part of the myth surrounding the film, anyway, which also says that I Am Cuba, the first Soviet-Cuban coproduction, was hated by both countries upon its release (by the Soviets for being too artsy, and by the Cubans for being inauthentic). It remained in obscurity for nearly 30 years until it was rediscovered by the Americans, the kings of kitsch. Most recently, the new restoration by Milestone Films of this movie that is at least nominally about Cuba, brings up questions of authenticity once again.