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Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up is a reasoned and factual documentary about the political mess of this country's relationship to Cuba, the communist dictatorship 90 miles off the coast of Florida. This proximity made Havana a tempting target for American gangsters and corporations before Fidel Castro's revolution, and remains an embarrassment to this day: America deals regularly with countries with regimes much more abhorrent than Cuba's, yet insists on dictating terms to this tiny island nation in its own back yard. 52 years after the revolution the U.S. is still dead-set against Cuba for a number of reasons, some of them legitimate. Although America's politicians and media vilify Castro's Cuba as a dangerous threat, producer-director Saul Landau's Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up calmly demonstrates that the opposite is the case. Every documentary has a political bias and this show is no different. But the facts presented here, often by U.S. officials and politicians, are pretty damning to our foreign policy as regards Cuba.
Saul Landau ventured to Cuba during the revolution and has made several films about Fidel Castro; his 1971 docu Fidel follows the dictator on a tour of the Cuban provinces. Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up sticks to the specific conflict between Cuba and the "exiled" community that transferred itself to Southern Florida after the revolution. Fidel got rid of Fulgencio Batista's worst generals and officers, but many of the upper-class Cuban rich and the middle-class professionals left the country. Fidelistas would say that they were either too cozy with payoffs from American companies, or unwilling to commit to a new society. Anti-Fidel Cubans either consider the (appallingly corrupt and unjust) Batista regime a good republic (it made many of them rich) and Fidel an abomination.
The docu shows how the exiled Cubans formed what can only be considered terrorist groups for anti-Fidel activities. While the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations attempted assassinations, exile agents carried out a campaign of sabotage and killings in Cuba, trying to destabilize the Castro regime. The C.I.A. encouraged "private" bombing raids over Cuba; Eisenhower refused to acknowledge the air strikes and simply replied that Cuba should shoot the planes down if they wanted to.
Interviews with ex- government officials spell out a number of disturbing facts. While U.S. speakers at the U.N. denied any anti-Cuban activity, the C.I.A. schemed to kill Castro and launched the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Turning a blind eye to the "unofficial foreign policy" of the Cuban exiles, the U.S. slammed Cuba with economic sanctions, terrorist subversion and open aggression. The welcoming of the Soviet Union to Cuba and the Missile Crisis are the grave wrongs that Americans won't forgive, but it's obvious that Fidel, faced by American hostilities, was forced to accept Soviet aid and military protection.
Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up continues with several decades' worth of egregious hostilities by the Cuban exile community, which was allowed to plant bombs in Havana and drop leaflets over the city for further provocation. Pleas to Washington to ground these flights were ignored. Ronald Reagan encouraged more unofficial hostilities against Cuba. Cuban intelligence warned the U.S. of an assassination attempt against Reagan and was given a very quiet "thank you". But the U.S. intelligence agencies stayed mum when they learned that a Miami based terrorist was going to blow up a Cuban airliner. An entire Cuban fencing team, the equivalent of the Israeli Olympic athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Munich, were lost on the plane. More than one Cuban exile terrorist is seen bragging about his activities in news film, including the instigator of this airliner bombing. The U.S. allows him to operate freely.
The final card played in Landau's docu regards the "Cuban Five", a group of Cuban intelligence agents arrested in Florida, convicted of espionage and imprisoned for life. We see various campaigners lobbying and pamphleteering on their behalf, including actor Danny Glover. The argument is that the agents were not gathering information about the U.S. military, U.S. security or any other government activity -- they claim to have come here to infiltrate Cuban exile terrorist organizations as a defense measure against bombings of hotels in Havana, a U.S.-encouraged effort to cripple the island nation's tourist industry. When Havana finally took Eisenhower's advice and shot down two exile planes provoking Cuba by flying over the city, the Cuban Five were convicted as complicit in that "murder".
The docu has a lively pace and a great variety of film and news video resources to back up its arguments -- it's particularly educational when we see American diplomats contradicting one another on foreign policy. 1 The final message is that America tolerates the exile Cubans' terrorism against Havana because doing so is politically advantageous to politicians who seek to gain office by encouraging anti-communist hysteria. While the criminal activity continues, conservatives have encouraged Cuban exiles to run for national office. The show leaves us with a number of memorable quotes. One inspired the docu's title. Another is from a U.S. Congresswoman, who openly and cheerfully calls for the murder of Fidel Castro. This blatant hypocrisy puts the lie to any government action that claims to be based on a so-called "war on terrorism". Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up uses no rhetoric and presents many anti-Castro speakers to state their case. It's a good docu and a good public information film.
Cinema Libre Studio's DVD of Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up is a high quality disc with excellent new video shot in Miami and Havana. An aged, weak-looking Fidel Castro appears in some interview footage. Reels of older news film and video reports provide the official evidence to support the film's arguments, as do national magazine covers promoting the 'brave patriots' that took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion. The audio uses some unobtrusive but pleasant Cuban music where appropriate. All of the speakers are identified.
For an extra Cinema Libre adds several uncut interview slices, including anti-Castro activists. The disc opens with promos for other Cinema Libre docus, all of which center on anti-globalization issues and the efforts of new regimes in Latin America to free themselves from American economic and political control.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up rates:
1. The show uses two impressive film clips to illustrate its case. A clip from The Godfather Part II shows the Mafia and big corporations "cutting up the Cuban Cake" in an informal ceremony on the balcony of a Havana hotel. Near the end, a sample of a video game reveals that an entire "first person shooter" game is based on the premise of penetrating Fidel Castro's personal compound and shooting him dead. As the killer (you) closes in, the animated Fidel uses a prostitute as a human shield.
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T'was Ever Thus.