It was first time Jon Alpert met Fidel Castro. This New York-based documentary filmmaker was carrying his camera, a heavy model belonging to Pleistocene portable video, inside a baby cart. The stamp managed to draw attention of Cuban leader, with which Alpert came to maintain a relationship of unusual trust and proximity. It would be beginning of a long relationship with Caribbean country, which was finished prolonging for 45 years. The filmmaker continued to visit Cuba and interview Castro on numerous occasions, to point of becoming only American journalist to go on plane that took him to new York to deliver his legendary speech to UN in 1979.
From his visits to island were more than a thousand hours of footage, now condensed in Cuba through camera, a documentary released on Netflix a year after Castro's death. Alpert used to work accompanied by his wife, camera operator Keiko Tsuno, with whom he founded, back in Seventies, a self-managed channel in Chinatown in New York.
The 69-year-old director does not hide his sympathy for Socialist project during his youth. "In United States we had a public health and a terrible housing policy. Something was happening on that horizon: things were materialized with which we simply dreamed. The dissidents said it was a terrible place, while ors described it as an earthly paradise. We wanted to see it with our own eyes, "explains Alpert, an autodidact who is reputed for his coverage from Vietnam, Iran, China, or Afghanistan for various U.S. chains, such as PBS or HBO, and twice-finalists at Oscar for his documentaries.
In his last film, Alpert focuses on three different Cuban families, who he interviewed repeatedly during his trips to island: Charity, a girl who will end up emigrating to Florida; Luis, a standing man who lives in business on black market; And Sheep brors, peasants who will end up becoming victims of shortage. The documentary begins by reflecting utopia of Seventies, but it ends up documenting economic misery that originates in collapse of Communist bloc, before illustrating conversion of island into a destination of mass tourism.
Alpert's idea was to reflect outcome of Castro's policies in daily life of humblest. The facts forced him to change his mind. Despite its starting point, director ended up moderating his verdict on Cuban reality. "There is a good and a bad part," he clarifies. "In some areas I see lasting benefits, which revolution guaranteed and continues to guarantee." Alpert places among se achievements educational system and public health, which he considers "better than in some American cities."
On or side of scale, director places poverty in which population and human rights deficit remained. "I do not know how my film will be received in Cuba, because no one has captured darkness of nineties like us," admits Alpert, who insists that he strove in "do not make up" anything he saw. Neverless, it also deplores effects that US embargo ended. "Every effort was made to disturb what was happening. We'll never know if it could have worked or not, says Alpert. The reverse of Donald Trump in recent months regarding opening proposed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, also seems unfortunate. "The old policy of blockade has not achieved any objective, only suffer people and also ir economy," concludes director.Baseball and diplomacy
Cuba through chamber surprises by relative facilities that Alpert had to visit country and film on its streets. The director reveals that his secret was to play baseball with Cuban diplomats in Central Park. "They beat us every Sunday for two years. It was humiliating, but I ended up falling well and let me in, "he says. His first visit had ended in failure. It arrived by boat and with a passport translated into Esperanto that did not convince authorities. "After three days of insisting that y let me in, y agreed to organize me a three-hour visit," he recalls. He saw nothing but Hemingway's house and Alamar's Havana neighborhood, but it was enough to stoke his curiosity about island.