Produced by Mosfilm and ICAIC, this film started production only a week after the Cuban Missile Crisis, inspired both by Sergei Eisenstein’s propaganda masterpiece Potemkin and Jean-Luc Godard’s freewheeling Breathless. I Am Cuba turned out to be something quite unique—a wildly schizophrenic celebration of Communist kitsch, mixing Slavic solemnity with Latin sensuality. The plot, or rather plots, feverishly explore the seductive, decadent (and marvelously photogenic) world of Batista’s Cuba. deliriously juxtaposing images of rich Americans and bikini-clad beauties sipping cocktails poolside with scenes of ramshackle slums filled with hungry children and gaunt old people. Using wide-angle lenses that distort and magnify and filters that transform palm trees into giant white feathers, Urusevsky’s acrobatic camera achieves gravity-defying angles as it glides effortlessly through long continuous shots. But I Am Cuba is not just a catalog of bravura technique — it also succeeds in exploring the innermost feelings of the characters and their often desperate situations. Mikhail Kalatozov’s mobile, hallucinatory film was initially rejected by both Cuban and Soviet officials for excessive naiveté and an insufficiently revolutionary spirit, and went largely disregarded and almost unknown for nearly 30 years.
Milestone Film & Video’s 4K restoration from the original Gosfilmofond 35mm interpositive and mag tracks was done at Metropolis Post with Jason Crump (colorist) and Ian Bostick (restoration artist). 4K scan by Colorlab, Rockville, MD.
This screening is co-presented in partnership with the Lightbox Film Center. Admission is free for all Penn students and faculty and is offered through the generous support of the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation. Partial support for this screening was provided by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation.