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This review was originally written by myself, here:
The story of the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro is a famous one. The regime under Batista, this film claims, was a dictatorial one where freedom of expression was forbidden. Despite Mikhail Zalatozov's film being released five years after the revolution was complete; it attempted to inform the public of Cuba that the revolution was a result of the heroic struggles of Communists who could no longer accept the political status of their country.
The film is split into four segments, the first of which tells the story of the relationship between a 'fruit seller' (notably shown as a pretty cool guy, despite how he doesn't merely sell fruit) and a 'worker' at a bar. The second shows a farmer being told that he no longer has a home after the land which he lives on whilst farming sugar cane was sold to United Fruit. The third is perhaps the most memorable - students at Havana University who rebel and protest against the government, which is often met by a gruesome result. The final sequence shows that farmers joined the rebels after the bombing of their land.
Despite the flaws of the plot, it is the cinematography which sets this film above merely being a propaganda piece. The camera acts as a virtual guided tour of Cuba just before the revolution taking place, with the narrator, Cuba herself, taking the role of the guide. The sheer technical audacity achieved by Sergei Urussevsky would go on to be referenced on countless occasions by film makers - a notable example being Paul Thomas Anderson's in Boogie Nights of the incredible early tracking shot down from the rooftops and into the swimming pool. Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin gets a reference in this film when the students are sprayed with hoses whilst marching down a set of steps.
Ignore the slightly annoying Russian dub and the fact that the luxurious sweeps of the camera would not have painted a realistic picture for Cubans upon initial release. Stick with this film, and it will stick with you for the rest of your life.