Sons of Cuba (2009)
The Havana Boxing Academy is a Cuban boarding school that takes 9-year-old boys, and turns them into the best boxers in the world. SONS OF CUBA follows the stories of three young hopefuls through 8 dramatic months of training and schooling as they prepare for the biggest event of their lives so far: Cuba’s National Boxing Championship for Under-12’s.
But during the season, crisis strikes: Fidel Castro is taken ill, and all of Cuba’s Olympic boxing champions defect to the USA, leaving Cuba at a crossroads, and the boys contemplating a changing world
There is almost unbearable pathos in Andrew Lang’s documentary about the Havana boxing academy. This is a boarding-school boot camp where dozens of nine-year-old boys are taken away from their families to train fiercely for the honour of competing in the national under-12 boxing championships and perhaps even for the Olympics, where Cuban boxers always do very well. The brutally hard training – and brutal activity in the ring – look an awful lot like formalised abuse.
These are some pretty scared and upset children we’re talking about, but often their trainers look like scared children themselves. The father of one infant boxer, a one-time champ, now lives in poverty, and the kids are shown thoughtfully digesting the news that three Cuban boxing stars and former role models have defected to the United States. A spectacle of yearning and heartbreak.
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Cuba: 3 films illuminating “gaps in mainstream history”
The Cuban communist regime, for half a century, has forced people to believe in absolute uniqueness in history, an orthodox history honoring «supreme leader» Fidel Castro. The memory of «separatists», «those who have other thoughts» are all buried.
However, since Fidel Castro became ill, and died, relations with the United States resumed, Cubans sought to reach the hidden parts of history. Le Monde introduced three films, recently released at a reunion of Latin American cinema in Toulouse (France), showing «desire» to return to “taboo topics”, to fill «holes drum »that orthodox history has created.
«Memory losses in Cuban mainstream history» commented: «… since Fidel Castro fell ill, and died, … Cuba’s propaganda machine no longer had operational land. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States deprived this regime of a viable enemy.
Nationalism, the last remnant of Castroism, is declining, no longer making the crowd excited ».
Despite the difficulties in daily life, many Cubans «start thinking with their own heads», «seek out sources of information, to build new projects and discuss the future ». Because the official media is still controlled by the regime, they seek to express themselves through social networks, through culture.
The companion of Pavel Giroud’s Cuban film was released in France in August 2016, about a meeting in the prison of people with Sida, between an infected soldier in Africa and a retired British boxer, assigned to manage the sick.
Sida patient centers in Cuba run directly and managed by the military. Critical, but this feature film was considered “too academic”, and the patriarchal “Leninism” was not really suspected, the issue of suppressed gay people was ignored.
Santa y Andrés
In contrast, the film «Santa y Andrés» (Santa and Andres) directed by Cuban director Carlos Carlos Lechuga refers to this issue. «Santa and Andres» has been banned in Cuba since October 14, 2016. The film recalls a period in which “corrupted” intellectuals were fired, prosecuted, marginalized.
Writer Andres was sentenced to eight years in prison, isolated in a remote rural area. Then the government sent a plain farmer woman named Santa to follow him. For Santa, writer Andres is both a “counterrevolutionary” and, more importantly, a “maricon” (ie a piper).
Strawberry and Chocolate candy (1993)
Then two lonely people – who are very different in every way – have come together. Like the famous film “Strawberry Fruit and Chocolate Candy” (1993), the real theme of the film is the ability to dialogue, even the relationship between Cubans «opposing people about everything “.
The issue of homosexuality seems to have been cleared, since La Habana became a gay tourist spot. President Raoul Castro’s daughter is very supportive of the LGBTI community (gay, bisexual, transgender people).
But the recent banning of the film shows that the «gay» issue is still sensitive. The reason is, the film has hit a historical truth in the late 1960s. That’s when thousands of homosexuals were detained in military concentration camps.
Cubans, though very different, will come together
Le Monde spent the last part introducing the film “En un rincon del alma” (In a hidden corner of the soul), based on testimonies of the late Cuban writer Elisio Alberto. In this documentary, Elisio Aberto revived Cuba’s historical flow, linking the period before and after the 1959 revolution, bringing Fidel Castro to power.
According to him, it was the introduction of Soviet ideology that «put an end to the first revolutionary romantic years». But the writer also believes that Fidel’s authoritarianism stems from the uprising, “the two opposition Cuba will eventually find each other, listen to each other”.
Beyond all is the desire of intellectuals to build a spirit of «dialogue between Cubans on all sides» and «desire for national reconciliation». «No hatred, no desire for revenge, only one need for truth», because «hatred is a failure of imagination», as American writer Graham Greene.