Release Date:August 14,2012
FIDEL provides a unique view of Cubas controversial and most polarizing leader. In 1968, Castro took filmmaker and activist Saul Landau on a week-long jeep ride through the eastern mountains. There, he plays baseball with a group of peasants, visits his pre-school and trades jokes with a 98-year old man. Fidel also listens to the peoples concerns about food distribution, bad roads and transportation. Landau captures Cubas revolutionary chief early in the morning in his tent. The camera zooms in on his dirty and delicate fingernails holding his trademark cigar while he tells a story of Símon Bolivar and offers tactical advice to guerrilla warriors throughout the Third World.
The film contains rare and fascinating archive footage of the Bay of Pigs invasion and scenes of Che Guevara alongside interviews with political prisoners. Spectacular photography and editing with hot Cuban music provide the cinematic aesthetics that give this film beautiful form to accompany its exciting content.
In May 1968, just nine years after the Cuban Revolution, San Francisco-based television producer Saul Landau was invited to join Fidel Castro in Cuba for an unprecedented in depth interview. The film, Fidel!, was selected for a complete restoration by the National Film Preservation Foundation via a proposal from the University of California Riversides (UCR) Department of Special Collections & Archives (SC & A), and will be available for the first time on DVD and VOD platforms on August 14, 2012.
Over the course of a week, Landau traveled through the islands mountainous terrain in a jeep with the charismatic world leader. Landau filmed Castro using a 16mm camera in a variety of settings, from military camps to a pickup baseball game to Castros speech on the 15th anniversary of his attack on Fort Moncada which marked the beginning of the Revolution. Landau captured an unparalleled time into the relationship of the Cuban people with their popular leader, at a time when the country was being transformed internally while internationally vilified.
Fidel! was completed in 1969 using fascinating footage from Cubas National Archive. When it aired on Public Broadcasting Stations across the nation (except for the Miami station), a bomb was thrown through window of New York Citys WNET station during the broadcast. Although no one was injured, this was the first of several attempts to sabotage the film. In 1970, the film was scheduled for a theatrical premiere when the Fifth Avenue Cinema in New York was bombed. The subsequent premiere at the Haymarket Theatre in Los Angeles was also derailed by an arson fire that destroyed the building the day before the film was to debut. After these incidents, most theaters in most major cities throughout the United States displayed no interest in screening the film--it was only shown in a select few locales such as San Francisco and Berkeley.
UCRs Melissa Conway, Distinguished Librarian and Head of Special Collections & Archives, identified a grant opportunity to restore the remaining film print. A number of factors led to the selection of Fidel! for this grant. This type of access to and footage of Cuba and a young Fidel Castro has never been replicated. It provides viewers with an intimate look at one of the worlds most captivating leaders in an isolated nation. Saul Landau candidly captured the daily lives of both Castro and the Cuban people. The connection between Castro and his people that is relayed through Fidel! makes it a truly valuable and unique look into the social climate of Cuba a decade after the renowned leaders reign. Concerns for the preservation of the film also contributed to our selection, as the film has started to show signs of dangerous deterioration after four decades. The pigments have degraded causing color loss as evidenced in the reddish tone that is present throughout the film. By digitizing the film in a modern format, there will be an option to strengthen the faded pigment colors using digital color enhancement while maintaining the red tone at its appropriate level.
The film print has been carefully restored and is available in High Def on digital platforms including Amazon Instant and ITunes.
Directors Commentary Saul Landau recalls his experience when viewing the film again with LINK TV journalist Hannah Eaves in 2010.
Cuba and Fidel Filmed in 1974, this 23 minute film shows unique footage of Castro and the beauty of rural and urban Cuba shot by Richard Pearce and directed by Saul Landau from material filmed from a CBS production.