By Anthony Boadle | Reuters
HAVANA (Reuters) - Director Oliver Stone has returned to Cuba to ask President Fidel Castro about a recent crackdown on dissidents and interview some of his opponents for a controversial documentary that HBO considered incomplete.
“The interviews and information will be added to the documentary,” Stone’s publicist Tony Angellotti said on Friday from Los Angeles.
The U.S. cable television network HBO last month pulled the documentary “Comandante” from its May schedule after Cuba’s communist authorities jailed 75 dissidents and executed by firing squad three men who hijacked a ferry in hopes of reaching the United States.
The 90-minute documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, is a profile of Castro, whom Stone views as “one of the Earth’s wisest people.”
Critics said the film was a whitewash of human rights abuses in Cuba by the director of the films “JFK” and “Nixon”.
On Tuesday, Stone interviewed dissident Oswaldo Paya, who has headed a signature drive calling for democratic reforms to the island’s one-party system.
“I thought he was very misinformed about what is going on in Cuba. He was more interested in the love life of Fidel Castro than what is happening to 11 million Cubans,” Paya said.
Stone’s production team also interviewed the wives of dissidents who were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison.
“The recent events in Cuba were of significant interest to Oliver,” said Angellotti. “Oliver isn’t one to simply lift things from the news, and he wanted to see it first hand.”
HBO had cancelled “Comandante” saying that unless Stone returned to Cuba and interviewed Castro, the documentary would appear “dated and incomplete.”
The network still plans to run the film, said HBO spokeswoman Leslie Martinelli on Friday. “We need to sit down with Oliver now and see how to put it all together,” she said.
The Oscar-winning director taped 30 hours of conversations with Castro, 76, over three days in February 2002.
The result was a personal look at Castro, ranging from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and his relationship with revolutionary Che Guevara to his love of music and film.
Stone said the documentary was his attempt to paint a portrait of the human side of Castro, who has been in power since leading a 1959 guerrilla revolution against U.S.-backed right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista.
HBO is a division of No. 1 media company AOL Time Warner.