Soy Cuba - "I am Cuba" - 1964

I just discovered the film Soy Cuba, from 1964...  I'm sure any film buff already knows of it, but for me it was such a treasure to find!

The film has a really interesting history.  It was filmed in 1964, after the Cuban Revolution, and the resulting US isolation, when Cuban filmmakers had starting reaching out to Soviet companies to help them produce their films.  It was directed by a Georgian, Mikhail Kalatozov, and attempts to show Cuba at the time from four different perspectives-- luxury, poverty, vagrancy, and revolution. 

At the time of its release, it was rejected both by Cubans and Soviets, for different reasons, and went unknown outside of those countries.  It wasn't until 1995, when a Cuban co-director of the Telluride had it screened, that it was re-discovered. 

It then garnered the interest of both Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola, who both realized its incredible cinematographic merit and decided to lend their names to its re-release.  Beyond its plot (which is not its strong suit or even its main focus), and its propagandistic nature, its hard to deny the amazing visual qualities of the film, which have influenced many famous American movies.

(Most directly, the scene above, which goes from a rooftop beauty pageant down to a hotel pool and then underwater in the pool, was used in Boogie Nights, but many other films have borrowed more loosely from Soy Cuba.)

One of the main things the film is noted for is the use of long tracking shots-- which were done with a handheld camera.  In the clips at above, the camera goes up or down entire stories of buildings simply by being handed off from one crew member to another-- no cranes or anything mechanical involved to create these incredibly long takes.  Pretty amazing.

In the shot above, which follows a funeral procession, the camera goes up four stories and then in through the window of a cigar factory and back out again.  The effect of leaving behind the coffin as the focal point and smoothly transitioning into a setting so iconically Cuban is pretty awesome.  Unfortunately the only clip of it I found doesn't have the original music, but it's still pretty amazing visually.

(The scene above isn't that noteworthy, I just really loved the song, and the panning of all the women at the bar.  The second half, with the Russian overdubbing, gets really weird though.)

I was so spellbound by the visuals in this incredible (even if totally biased and/or cliche) look at Cuba, from the very first moments of the clip at top, that I just had to share... check them out when you have a minute to soak it up.  I feel like I just time-traveled back to 1960s Cuba.

Buy the re-release of Soy Cuba / I am Cuba here.

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