Comandante | Chicago Reader

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The first film of a projected trilogy on doctrinaire political leaders, Oliver Stone's documentary about Fidel Castro was culled from 30 hours of footage shot over three days. Constructed as a series of dialectical exchanges between the two men, it's most effective as a meditation on personality, revealing their common obsession with Vietnam, John F. Kennedy, and Richard M. Nixon (as Castro remarks, the American government “has been nice to all kinds of dictators”). Photographed in part by the excellent Rodrigo Prieto (25th Hour), the movie mixes a gracefully melancholy portrait of contemporary Havana with startlingly beautiful archival footage of Cuba during the revolution, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the missile crisis. Stone's casual, indirect interview style yields some fascinating details—like Castro's admiration for Charlie Chaplin and Brigitte Bardot—but he's also strangely passive, almost protective of his elderly subject. Richard Boyle, the muckraker who collaborated with Stone on Salvador, might have been more willing to ask Castro about Cuba's thriving teenage sex trade, its prosecution of political dissidents, and its horrifying treatment of homosexuals. In English and subtitled Spanish. 93 min.

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