If there’s a Bluray or an HD-streaming version of Mikhail Kalatozov and Sergey Urusevsky‘s Soy Cuba (’64), I can’t find it. A Russian-funded documentary intended to be pro-Cuban propaganda, Soy Cuba emerged as a sensual celebration of cinema (the long shots are brilliant) in the vein of Sergei Eisenstein‘s Que Viva Mexico!. An ambivalent exploration of Cuban culture, Soy Cuba half-revelled in hotel luxury, swimming pools and bikini-clad hotties — not what the Soviets were looking for.
An HD restoration happened in 2019, but it’s not currently streamable via Criterion or Amazon or any of the others. (Or so it appears.) It used to be accessible via Prime Video but has been withdrawn. Oscilloscope used to have a DVD version (who wants 480p?) but this has also been withdrawn.
Milestone Films copy: “Started only a week after the Cuban missile crisis and designed to be Cuba’s answer to both Sergei Eisenstein’s propaganda masterpiece Potemkin and Jean-Luc Godard‘s freewheeling romance 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 wild 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. Shown unsubtitled at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I Am Cuba received two standing ovations during the screening. The first movie ever jointly presented by master filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, I Am Cuba is one of the great discoveries in cinema. It will change your view of cinema forever!”