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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki "I Am Cuba" documentary
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"I Am Cuba" documentary
MrBaliHai
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 01, 2002
Posts: 801
Posted: 2006-05-15 1:14 pm   Permalink

I just received my "I Am Cuba" DVD from Amazon, and watched it last night. I loved the cinematography, and the nightclub scenes were glorious. However, the heavy-handed propaganda that suffuses the film got old pretty fast, and the Russian narration that overlapped and drowned out the actors' dialogue on the soundtrack was incredibly freakin' annoying! It's like listening to a constant echo coming back in the wrong language. It came close to ruining the entire experience of watching the film for me.

I'm amazed that the DVD menu doesn't provide any way to turn off this narration. Why couldn't they have stuck this on the SAP track when they remastered it so the viewer could choose to enable or disable it?
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aquarj
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1083
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2006-05-15 1:56 pm   Permalink

I'm curious what others think regarding the filmmakers' intentions in the early scenes like the rooftop party and the pool and the fantastic TVics interior.

Do you think they want the viewer to be disgusted with the extravagance, excess, and debauchery? In other words, look at the sharp contrast with how the have-nots live on the same island.

But if so, why'd they make it look so great? Was it actually intentional to present those scenes in an appealing light, somehow? Maybe the viewer is supposed to be turned off not so much by the environs, but by the behavior of the people in them (decadent Americans and such)?

I didn't watch the whole movie, so maybe this is all obvious. But I was just kinda intrigued by what seemed like conflicting purposes in the beginning.

-Randy


 
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bb moondog
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 18, 2006
Posts: 492
From: Gilbert AZ
Posted: 2006-05-15 2:16 pm   Permalink

I'm kinda with you, but I'm sure the director (like most 60s directors ) wanted some glam LA DOLCE VITA style decadence and also wanted to make a GREAT looking film; but still point fingers at the native-spoiling decadent capitalist SWINE of the West. Unfortunately, dismantling all that hedonist stuff was one of the worst things they could've done economy-wise to Cuba--hopefully they stored it all when Castro kicks off its gonna be a GRANDE party.

 
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MrBaliHai
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 01, 2002
Posts: 801
Posted: 2006-05-15 5:11 pm   Permalink

I'm sure that the intent of those who authorized the making of this film was to juxtapose the decadence of the tourist trade and the island's elite with the grinding poverty that the vast majority of Cubans had to endure. Whether or not director Mikheil Kalatozishvili intentionally made the nightclub and Copacabana scenes look so fabulous is an interesting question. Directors often tried to subvert the strict limitations that the Soviet propaganda officers placed on them, but I don't know enough about Kalatozishvili's dedication to the Party's ideals to make that call.
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11192
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2006-05-16 2:50 pm   Permalink

It is exactly this schizophrenic message that makes this film so endearing to me- I once called it THE best Tiki Bar scene ever captured on film- the irony being that it was meant by the filmmakers as a condemnation!

It ultimately proves that true ART transcends politics: The director and cinematographer came from a cold, forbidding country, and they were seduced by the Cuban sensuality to create something beyond propaganda, even though they were convinced they were supporting the class struggle with their work. They took TWO YEARS to shoot this movie, what THEY thought was their masterwork, and it changed them.

But, what irony, the film was a FLOP in the communist world: In Cuba, the Cubans thought it was an over-dramatizing cliched way of portraying them, and in Russia, the Russian party members thought it was way too fun-loving, so it was shelved. So the director and cinematographer died thinking their opus had been a failure!

To ad to the irony, if you check some of the contemporary internet reviews of the film, some Americans complain about the cliche way THEIR countrymen are portrayed as loud, insensitive buffoons, while others, who have been abroad, concur that such portrayals are sadly accurate.

Which brings me back to my LOVE for cliches, and my belief in their intrinsic folk/pop wisdom, because they are based on truth.

Which brings me back to the mixed Spanish/Russian narration as being an essential surrealist element of the film, which, much like the Brechtian concept of viewer alienation, allows you to step back and see the work of art from a standpoint of bewildered wonderment.....which is my attitude towards Tiki in general.

This film is a testament that if there is one TRUTH, it is ART, not ideology, because the "ideologies" in this example are right AND wrong, proving that there is no simple Black and White reality, as many a leader will want you to believe, but that to embrace duality is much closer to life....

Whew, see what a couple of hours of overwork and some Hefeweizen can do to you....


 
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ikitnrev
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1313
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2007-11-27 9:26 pm   Permalink

There is a new 3-DVD set of 'I Am Cuba' currently available. (Retail price $45, amazon price $34)

The entire package comes in a cigar-box!

Disk 1 contains a new high-def version of the full movie (141 minutes) along with a lengthy interview with Martin Scorsese. Also included are the Cuban version of the opening credits, and the original trailer.

Disk 2 contains a 91 minute Brazilian documentary about the making of 'I Am Cuba', along with a 10 minute interview with the film's screeenwriter.

Disk 3 contains a 120 minute documentary about Mikhail Kalatozov, the director of 'I Am Cuba'

Also included is a book on the making of the film and its history since its release.

I saw this film a few months ago, and will likely order this box set very soon.

Vern


 
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VampiressRN
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 23, 2006
Posts: 5772
From: Sun City Lincoln Hills (NorCal)
Posted: 2007-11-27 9:47 pm   Permalink

Thanks Vern...just ordered my copy.
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11192
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-11-27 9:51 pm   Permalink

Thank you, Vern, very cool. That documentary about the making off is great (for the I AM CUBA fan), because they dug up some of the crew members (like the dolly grip, who still works in his job in Havana!), and reveal how some of those amazing (for that time revolutionairy) shots in the film were done.
This set is a definite on my Christmas list.


 
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tikibars
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2002
Posts: 2024
From: Aku Hall, Chicago
Posted: 2007-11-30 10:13 am   Permalink

Thanks for the tip Vern.

I have been writing DVD reviews for this web site...

http://www.therewindforums.co.uk/forums/

...and will beg the webmasters to let me have a crack at the new I Am Cuba!

Maybe I will enjoy the film (again) while sipping some of the Havana Club that I got at Duty-Free in Paris, 24 hours ago (had to throw that in!)


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TIKI-TONGA
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 322
From: Arcadia Ca.
Posted: 2010-09-25 9:23 pm   Permalink

I was enjoying this film on Netflix this evening and took a few screen captures of the Tikis in the film.


This guy might be a distant cousin to Disney's Pele.










I know some of these pics may already be on TC in some form or other.


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11192
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-09-26 11:57 am   Permalink

Aaaah, my fave film!

Here are the photographs that the giant idols in the nightclub were obviously carved from, taken from the vintage art book "Exotic Art", an English reprint of the Czech original (I believe).









I also believe that, though the nightclub was obviously a set (with partly Trader Vic's Havana Hilton decor), these statues might have originally stood in this Havana Bar. Their menu cover certainly fits the African primitive art look:



 
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TIKI-TONGA
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 322
From: Arcadia Ca.
Posted: 2010-09-26 5:33 pm   Permalink

Awesome Poly-Caribbean history detective work as usual Bigbro.

 
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Hakalugi
Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3083
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2010-09-26 5:40 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-09-25 21:23, TIKI-TONGA wrote:
I was enjoying this film on Netflix this evening ...



Thanks for the Netflix heads up. Very cool, it's available to watch instantly! I just added it to my "instant watch" queue and will watch it later this evening.


 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2694
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-10-01 09:38 am   Permalink

Here's a couple of working links that focus on the nightclub scenes...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUINE6CrrDc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aT3Ii3hWM0

It's all about the Lounge Culture.

Maybe we should start banning Aloha Shirts (unless you're the bartender) and shorts from the Tiki Bar.


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11192
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-10-28 4:06 pm   Permalink

In a recent thread, the question came up why I vote this film to be the best depiction of Tiki Culture on celluloid. That I do so does NOT mean that mid-century Cuba = Tiki.

I have always spoken of the IRONY of this: A RUSSIAN film shot in CUBA in a nightclub setting depicting AFRICAN idols with CUBAN singers and dancers in my mind does the best job to capture THE SPIRIT of Tiki in the mid-century. None of these things ARE "Tiki", but in its portrayal of a Zeitgeist (Time Spirit) it comes closer to the essence of Tiki Culture than any other original footage I know.

It should have been shot at the Mai Kai, but it wasn't. Factually (location, ethnic style, music) it is not Tiki, but artistically it wonderfully represents the SPIRIT OF TIKI.


 
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