A Cuban and Soviet co-production, which began filming a week after the missile crisis, 1964's 'I Am Cuba' took 14 months to shoot on what looks like a shoestring and is considered to be an artistic and technical triumph. Largely unknown outside of Cuba and Russia and banned in the US until 1992, the film counts among its fans Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, who are credited with bringing it to greater public attention. Is it propaganda? Undoubtedly. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely.
Directed by Palme D'Or winner Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 'I Am Cuba' tells the story of the 1959 revolution through the lives of four people. A stunning young woman must make a living in Havana entertaining Americans; a college student sees his peers shot for distributing pro-Castro literature; a peasant is told that the land he farms has been sold to a US company and another one of his countrymen joins the guerrillas after his home in the hills is bombed.
With a running-time of 140 minutes, the detail-obsessed Kalatozishvili is in no hurry with the story and, as a result, 'I Am Cuba' has a dreamy quality which proves more intoxicating the longer the film goes on. There is much to marvel at - the scenery, Kalatozishvili's depictions of daily Cuban life, the cinematography and stylistic flourishes which can still hold their own with anything that's currently out there.
Whatever your politics, there's no argument that this film deserved to be brought back from the dead. And it's ironic that so many years after it was made, a piece of propaganda could have another life attracting tourists to its locations. Now that's subversive.