LOW FIDELITY ON THE DOC CHANNEL
If I were the kind of person who cancelled my subscription every time I read or see something didn’t like, I’d have dumped the Documentary Channel from my Bell ExpressVu package like a hot potato last night, after seeing Estela Bravo’s documentary on Fidel Castro
Far from being "the untold story" of the world’s most loveable and longest-standing dictator, Bravo’s film
is a dreary, dated montage of photo-ops, jubliant crowd scenes, and soft-ball interviews with the avuncular El Jefe himself, interspersed with familiar historical footage from the revolution, and commentary, complete with plenty of gee-what-a-guy anecdotes, from a roster of talking heads ranging from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alice Walker, to Angela Davis and former US attorney general Ramsay Clarke. And there are the oft-seen clips of American celebs eager to bask in the glow of Fidel’s presence: the two Jacks, Nicholson and Lemmon, Ted Turner, Muhammed Ali, not to mention the Pope, the only human being in the film whose charisma trumps Fidel’s and in whose presence Fidel actually seems deferential, and certainly uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because the crowds who came out to see John Paul were not whipped up by Castro’s Committees to Defend the Revolution, but were truly spontaneous.
But the movie was mostly shot about a decade ago and first released in 2001, that is, before tens of thousands of Cubans signed a petition
demanding more democratic rights, before Castro started throwing his dissidents
in prison wholesale, before he had three alleged hijackers summarily executed, before revealing that he was an ordinary mortal when he stumbled and fell in public. The kindest thing to be said about the movie is that its worshipful, uncritical tone seems hopelessly out of date, and unworthy of serious journalism.
Of course, we're surrounded by propaganda all the time. What I want to know is, whatever possessed the Documentary Channel not just to show this travesty, but to show it in prime time, and to bill it as a "premiere" presentation? Maybe they need to devise a warning: "This film may contain scenes of fawning sycophancy. Viewer discretion is advised."