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Review: Netflix’s “Cuba & The Cameraman”

Netflix is quite the powerhouse, isn’t it? With its own films, series, and special documentaries, the entertainment giant’s list of original content is growing. And although Canada’s Netflix isn’t quite as good as the US’ Netflix (why, Netflix?!), we still get some of the good stuff.

The most recent documentary I watched happened to be a Netflix one. “Cuba & The Cameraman” documents one filmmaker’s travels to Cuba. In fact, the documentary shows footage from several decades. It’s a true testament to the filmmaker’s patience, persistence, and storytelling.

It starts off slow, but it builds momentum. It’s not really the fast-paced action film that so many people choose to watch due to a desire to satiate a need for instant gratification. Instead, “Cuba & The Cameraman” tells the real-life stories of various Cubans. It is, essentially, a testament to Cuba. And while the filmmaker is American, his respect for Fidel Castro is interesting, if not controversial.

As someone who has been to Cuba twice before (both times were before the embargo was lifted), I find the current focus on Cuba – mainly by Americans – to be interesting. Personally, I hope that Cuba’s situation gets better, but I hope its culture is maintained despite the foreign influx.

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My first trip to Cuba.

Cuba is by far one of my favourite travel destinations. The first time I went was when I had just turned 19. Of course, I was with my parents, brother, and sister, and spent most of my time at a resort. Still, the locals were nothing short of incredibly kind. During our second visit the following year, we decided to hire a tour guide and visit a farm, one of the local cities, Morón, as well as Havana. Our venture into Morón was a brief one, although I can still remember exactly what the streets looked like, and how the people of the city looked at us as we walked around with our tour guide speaking to us in English.

Like Morón, Havana’s still etched in my mind. I remember the streets, the beautifully bright vintage cars, and how laid-back the city seemed for a capital. As we approached the famous buildings – the same buildings portrayed as a celebratory backdrop in “Cuba & The Cameraman” – with Che Guevara printed on the wall, I knew I had to photograph that moment.

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Seizing the moment.

Although I want to say, “politics aside, Cuba’s great”, I know that Cuba is politics. As someone who studied politics, loves history, and has an interesting connection to both Cuba and Berlin (specifically, as I don’t feel the same way about the rest of Germany), I think it might be partly because the Cold War era has always fascinated me. And while stepping through Cuba, you can’t help but feel that essence of history, politics, and humanity. As shown in “Cuba & The Cameraman”, Cuba’s more than a tourist destination. Cuba is all about humanity, with Castro’s initial plea for equality turning into something less sustainable. “Cuba & The Cameraman” portrays this beautifully, while demonstrating the Cuban people’s impressive ability to remain joyful regardless of their living conditions.

One thing I noticed, while I was in Cuba, was that people really are – or at least were – divided. We met people who had nothing but positive words to say about the country, some who mentioned some of the downsides but generally seemed grateful, and also a guide who explained to us why he was leaving Cuba for Canada soon. We didn’t see Cuba from a one-dimensional point of view; we were exposed to so many different opinions, and to places that were clearly marked by a failed political structure, which might be why I can’t help but see it as one of the most interesting places I’ve been to. And still, regardless of the chaos, I couldn’t help but notice how kind and appreciative Cuban people seem to be, which is a recurrent theme of “Cuba & The Cameraman”.

So, whether you’re planning on travelling to Cuba, or want to watch something honestly refreshing, “Cuba & The Cameraman” is a good place to start.

 

 

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