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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Looking for Fidel
Looking for Fidel
Cinema Libre // Unrated // April 26, 2011
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 21, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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While Oliver Stone has certainly demonstrated himself to be a skilled filmmaker, delivering bold and thought-provoking features on historical figures or even pictures that represented an element of a time period ("Wall Street" and its sequel.) However, "Looking for Fidel" demonstrates that Stone also has a strength as an interviewer, doing a reasonably good job trying to gain insight into his subject and some of the recent events in the country.

A documentary with an almost uneasy energy under it largely due to stylistic choices and handheld camerawork, "Looking for Fidel" is the follow-up to the little-seen documentary from Stone, "Commandante". The documentary was filmed shortly after the round-up of a series of dissidents and the execution of a group of hijackers. Throughout the documentary, Castro is interviewed, as are a series of prisoners and others.

Viewers will not likely take away significant new findings about Castro or Cuba, but I suppose one takeaway for viewers both familiar and unfamiliar is Stone's view of the inner workings of Castro, as while Castro's answers are elusive, his responses to Stone's pointed questions are delivered in a way that is firm, to-the-point and delivered without so much as a second thought or hesitation. While he displays genuine interest in some of Stone's points, he moves past them with elusive responses that are so fast as to almost seem rehearsed (or, on the other hand, Castro has heard variations on so many occasions, the responses of years past may already be filed away in his mind. Or, to take another page, it may be explained by Castro's view of himself: "I am not a man who elaborates ideas. I am a man who executes ideas.")

Watching the film, it's difficult to know if an actor could ever play Castro's interior and exterior as well as the actual Castro does. Some of the things that Castro doesn't say are as interesting as what he does. Still, towards the end, Castro appears to loosen up and ponders a different, unfamiliar world that lies before him: "So many things have changed. I don't know why there has been so much progress ... to end up like this." As he looks out on a sunset, he asks, "Why was humanity allowed to achieve all that?"

Castro's view of the world appears to be solidified, talking about the US (Castro laments that he can't even give positions of power to friends, like they do in the US) to his view of his tasks (he considers himself the moral chief and spiritual leader of the country) to trade restrictions (the country can trade with China and a few others, but remains limited) and those who are conspiring against the country. He asks Stone, "What is the free press?" Some historical footage is weaved within the picture at times, but not much, given the lack of running time. It would have been interesting to have a more feature-length picture, which could have went further into history, as well as offered a bit more about the state of the country today (at the end, Castro and Stone venture into the streets to find mostly cheering crowds) as well as more interviews (with those who offer a different portrayal of the current state of Cuba and Castro.)

"Looking for Fidel" is not an immensely in-depth look at Cuba or Castro, but it is a very interesting portrait of both from Stone.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Looking for Fidel" is presented by Cinema Libre in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Filmed with a basic camera, the picture appears a tad soft, but looks to likely be expected for the material. Additionally, while the picture never appears crisp, at least the level of clarity does remain largely consistent. No specks, marks or other concerns with the source elements were seen. Colors remained fine, appearing a bit on the cool side.

SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.

EXTRAS: Zip, which is really too bad.

Final Thoughts: While it doesn't offer a particularly in-depth portrait, "Looking for Fidel" is still a highly watchable documentary feature from Stone. Audio/video quality is fine, but it's really unfortunate that no extras are offered. With limited replay value and no extras, this is worth a rental.

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