Cuba and the Cameraman, a documentary without a critical spirit

Cuba and the Cameraman, a documentary without a critical spirit

HAVANA, Aug. 9th “When I arrived in Cuba I was in my early 20s and there were no cell phones. I came for 50 years.

I made friends with everyone to tell the story of the country”. The documentary maker Jon Alpert says those words while we see images of Havana during the funeral of Fidel Castro. Are the first minutes of Cuba and the Cameraman, the 2017 movie that can be seen on Netflix.

And those words are a good example of the spirit of the production.

Over the course of nearly two hours, Alpert’s work explores the life of Cuba through three families from rural and urban areas from the country. The American, who has an extensive career as a freelance journalist and filmmaker, visited them for decades and was recounting the changes in their lives.

Besides, tells some vignettes in the history of the country: the triumph of the revolution, the Mariel exodus, the Special Period, dependence on tourism and the country’s link with the United States.

The documentary maker becomes friends with his interviewees.

The documentary material is excellent. Not only because of the home registration of Cuban families -and their settings- over time, but also because of Alpert’s exclusive encounters with Fidel Castro; He was even the only American to travel with the president from Havana to New York for a UN assembly in 1979.

Your registration is always in a double role: him on camera narrating and also behind the camera.

The weakest point of the documentary is his lack of a critical look at the Cuban future. It shows the history and the difficulties of those families, to whose members he declares his friends. And ask questions like the following: “Why are you cutting cane and not doing other work?” “When are those syringes from? They look like they were from the last century! ” “Has anything changed here in recent years?”.

Without the help of others, you cannot make a good documentary. That is undoubted. But Alpert seems more concerned with those personal ties and with his character in history than with making sense of the country’s political problems. He does not try to do it by asking or pondering what his camera shows.

Cuba and the Cameraman, a documentary without a critical spirit

Fidel Castro is a recurring figure in the Alpert documentary.

The man, who wears a shirt with his name embroidered on it, is personable, asks questions quickly and worries about the children’s future. He even buys a medical supply from one of his interviewees-friends; a material that, of course, is not possible to get on the island.

At times, Alpert achieves something difficult: build a documentary without political thought in a country like Cuba, with flat conclusions. For instance: “It hurt a lot to film my friends suffering”.

Throughout the entire documentary, he also does not explain how he managed to be one of the first American reporters to go to Cuba. He is always condescending and offers a friendly look at everything.

In one of his encounters with Fidel, whom he later asked to autograph a T-shirt, Alpert asks him if he wants to get rid of them. Castro answers: “No, not at all. You have not bothered me ”.

Documentary film Protagonists and creator: Jon Alpert Emisión: Netflix.
Duration: 114 minutes. (