Fidel Castro, Oliver Stone, USA

Les américains ont une vision de Castro qui est malheureusement caricatural… Je pense qu’ils craignent de le trouver sympathique

Oliver Stone

C’est édifiant. Cuba, avec ses petits moyens est une réussite de gouvernement progressiste, de politique sociale. Les États-Unis veulent renverser ce régime pour imposer leurs propres valeurs totalitaires. Pour cela ils tentent depuis 40 ans de déstabiliser le pays en l’asphyxiant, en finançant le terrorisme international.

Il reste de l’espoir. J’ai enfin trouvé le livre Cuba face à l’empire de Salim Lamrani à la FNAC, un peu coincé entre deux livres critiques sur les État-Unis.

Salim Lamrani parle beaucoup mieux que moi de la politique terroriste du gouvernement étasunien, procurez-vous le livre (il est disponible sur Amazon) ou cherchez ses articles sur internet.

Je fantasme un peu sur le livre dans le billet Comandante. Maintenant qu’il existe entrain mes mains, je suis entrain de l’éplucher (je lis lentement), et je découvre qu’à un moment, il parle du film d’Oliver Stone ! Il cite un extrait d’une entrevue.

Dans mon précédent billet, j’avais vu juste de parler de ce livre, et du film. Le hasard veut que l’auteur ait publié le chapitre ou il parle du film censuré sur le site, dans l’article intitulé Commission des droits de l’homme de Genève : Cuba, le Honduras et l’histoire d’un terroriste notoire devenu diplomate étasunien.

J’ai cherché l’article original sur Oliver Stone, mais j’ai trouvé qu’un pdf difficilement accessible. Je publie donc cet article afin de faire parler de l’œuvre de l’artiste, et polémiquer sur la situation cubaine.

The Americans have a view of Castro that is unfortunately rigid… I think they’re worried they might like him.

Oliver Stone spent three days in Cuba with Castro talking about youth, power, everything from Fidel’s failings as a father to drinking nights with Krushchev. The result is a film HBO won’t show, perhaps because it puts a human face on the U.S.’s eternal enemy. But the CBC isn’t afraid to air it

By Simon HOUPT – Saturday, March 20, 2004

NEW YORK — The phone line to Los Angeles is weak and crackling, and Oliver Stone asks me to call him back. I thought maybe our phone was being tapped by the Bush Administration, I say when I finally reach him. Huh huh, he chuckles without mirth. Huh huh. Huh huh. I don’t know if that’s funny or not.
The joke apparently cut a little close to home. Stone isn’t quite an enemy of the state, but for a Hollywood director, he has the rare ability to bring on aesthetic heartburn among political, business and academic leaders in America. His latest film, Comandante, a documentary profile of Fidel Castro, had the misfortune to be scheduled for broadcast in the U.S. only weeks after the Cuban government cracked down on dissidents last spring and ordered the execution of three men who had hijacked a ferry to escape the island. Saying it needed more work in light of the turn of events, the normally fearless American pay channel HBO temporarily shelved the program. Eventually, the network quietly removed the film from its schedule. Comandante will finally get its North American premiere one week from tomorrow, playing on CBC Newsworld’s The Passionate Eye Mar. 28 at 10 p.m. (ET).

The problem wasn’t just one of timing. Castro rarely grants interviews, and some were disappointed with the gentle nature of Stone’s approach. He gave Castro the right to pause the proceedings at any point if he objected to the questions. But there was no need to exercise that right since Stone, who appears on-screen in modest thrall to Castro, was going after a portrait of a man rather than a world leader. There is little tough questioning about the treatment of dissidents or other potentially hot topics. It’s one of the few documents of Castro actually being in the conversational mode, boasts Stone, sitting down for a coffee in an L.A.

It’s like My Dinner with Andre. It’s My Dinner with Fidel.

Actually, many dinners. Castro and a mustachioed Stone break bread together on-screen, travel the streets of Havana in the presidential Mercedes and wade through admirers at surprise appearances throughout the city. Culled from 30 hours of interviews that took place over three days in 2002, the film shows the Cuban leader relaxed and reflective, and almost simplistically playful.

The Americans have a view of Castro that is unfortunately rigid, Stone says, the restaurant clatter amplified by his phone. He is a man who’s seen a lot. Let’s give him his chance to speak. I think they’re worried they might like him.

Stone continues. They don’t like to listen. They don’t want to give Hussein, or anybody, more airtime. The Vietnamese were faceless — you make the enemy faceless, you can obviously get away with that for a long time.

Comandante puts a human face on America’s eternal enemy. Castro demonstrates his exercise regimen for Stone’s cameras, pacing in a rectangular circuit around his small office. He sits in a screening room, nostalgic ease spreading across his 76-year-old face, as he dwells on his love of old movie stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. He admits that he has perhaps not been as good a father to his sons as he might have been. He offers Stone, an old JFK assassination-conspiracy buff, his own thoughts on the lone gunman theory. And he recalls some evenings of heavy drinking through the decades with Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Yeltsin.

Somehow believing this sort of material might be greeted warmly back home, Stone stepped on a land mine. To some Americans, particularly those within the powerful Cuban exile community, which has the ability to move the vote in the swing state of Florida and therefore can grab the attention of federal politicians, the concept of a soft portrait of Castro is just short of criminal. In the days after Comandante screened for the first time at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, the local Cuban exile community began a fierce campaign to have it suppressed.

So many reporters in America killed the film without even seeing it, says a disappointed Stone. They were all saying the same thing: It’s soft-ball questions for old Castro. It was just so obvious that nobody had seen the film. That’s amazing to me, that that kind of closing down of the First Amendment can happen so easily.

I think I pushed Fidel. I wasn’t trying to be Mike Wallace because I don’t think Mike Wallace would have gotten anything from him. He’s used to those people in his face, so I went about it as a filmmaker, not as a political reporter.

Stone habitually challenges authority, either by taking on official U.S. history with the swirling paranoia of JFK or an all-out assault on the corrupt media-saturated American culture in Natural Born Killers. He even faced nasty opposition to his last studio picture, Any Given Sunday, a critical look at professional football. Oh, the NFL killed us, or tried to kill us, he says. It took its gloves off. There was a lot of dirty stuff. If you take on the establishment here, it’s not that easy. It’s like Soviet Russia, you know. It’s not that easy to take on the big boys. There’s a climate of fear.

That’s where HBO is supposed to come into the picture. The pay-TV network portrays itself as being above the quotidian commercial pressures that crush the creativity of the broadcast outlets. As a cable service, it can afford to offend just about anyone it wishes, be it a core of Italian-Americans with The Sopranos, the Catholic church with a documentary about sexual abuse by priests, or anti-porn advocates with a program about Nevada’s Bunny Ranch whorehouse.

But the network, owned by Time Warner, may have felt Castro’s defence of himself crossed a line. What is a dictator? And is it bad to be a dictator? Castro asks rhetorically, to little apparent objection from Stone. Because I’ve seen the United States government being friendly with the biggest dictators.

HBO said this week it did not cave to pressure from a powerful lobby group, it merely took another look at Comandante when Castro’s crackdown occurred and determined the film wasn’t balanced enough. Saying it was still in the works, the network asked Stone to return to Cuba for more material. He did so, securing another three days with Castro in May, 2003. The encounter was much testier, as Stone pushed him on his control of political opponents and the execution of the hijackers. Stone also spoke
with dissidents.

But rather than incorporate that material into Comandante, Stone produced an entirely separate documentary entitled Looking for Fidel, which will be shown on HBO next month. (CBC Newsworld is negotiating for the rights.) HBO still has no intention of running Comandante, even as a companion piece to Looking for Fidel. We don’t feel there is a need to air Comandante, said Lana Iny, an HBO spokesperson.

CBC did not share HBO’s concerns. We’ve run portraits of Saddam Hussein, of the Pope — quite a broad range of documentaries, said Jerry McIntosh, the director of documentaries for CBC News. I think the fact that Castro is a dictator is not a reason for us not to look at the guy’s life and his point of view.

Stone understands HBO’s objections. but is disappointed that Americans won’t get a chance to see the film except at select film festivals.

I saw what the people are like in Cuba. I’m not seeing a Stalinist regime, North Korea, or Iraq. Let’s not kid ourselves, millions of tourists go there every year, Canadians included, they see with their own eyes. At what point does it become ridiculous to put a hex on this island?

He speaks from a wealth of experience. Stone is one of the best-travelled commercial filmmakers, often going abroad to make movies such as Salvador, Platoon, and his upcoming epic about Alexander the Great, Alexander, due out in November. I’ve been in a lot of these countries: Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Argentina. I don’t see where they’re so free, he says with a grim laugh. I don’t understand what the comparison is and why Cuba is the bogeyman. I’d be a lot more scared to live in Guatemala, or frankly parts of New York or L.A. or Washington, than I would in Havana. I think it’s very safe. There’s very little crime.

So why does America hold a grudge against Cuba? It’s like Vietnam. It represents something that beat us, he says, then reconsiders his words. Well, they wouldn’t surrender. Castro outwitted us, stayed on, the revolution lasted, he took over the land.

Taking land is the greatest sin in America, he says. Revolution is not allowable — although we had a revolution. We’re still committed to destroying the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918, and I think in a strange way anything that exists outside our globalized financial structure is going to be the enemy. And Cuba is right up there on that list, with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, but they won’t put them on. Won’t put Saudi Arabia on. He laughs.

This is as close as Stone will come to making specific comments about the current state of politics in the U.S. Perhaps he’s tired of being attacked for his politics, but he leaves many questions alone, even seeming to pretend at times that he didn’t hear them. Still, he will take a slap or two at the current American leadership, by way of pointing to the special place Castro holds in the hearts of the Cuban people.

Every street we walked down [with Castro], there was a furor, an excitement, people rushing out to see him, lining up to see him, and I think we could have gone to 20 streets and found that kind of reaction, he says.

If you just look at the faces, you’ll see it. I hope that comes through a bit in the documentary. I’m sure there’s some discontent that I’m not showing in their faces, but you don’t generally see that kind of enthusiasm for a presidential candidate, unless he’s John Kennedy or Bill Clinton. I don’t know that you’d see it spontaneously for George Bush. I don’t think George Bush would walk around any street in America. I think he’d be scared to death with what he’d get.

Oliver Stone’s documentary Comandante airs on CBC Newsworld’s The Passionate Eye at 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 28 and repeats on Friday, April 2 at 10 p.m.

  • Rosanna Costa

    nice article! nice site. you're in my rss feed now 😉
    keep it up

  • JailBreak redSnow SnowBreeze

    Excellent Lines
    « sure there’s some discontent that I’m not showing in their faces, but you don’t generally see that kind of enthusiasm for a presidential candidate, unless he’s John Kennedy or Bill Clinton »