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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

HBO pulls plug on ‘Comandante’

Posted April 22, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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2003 WorldNetDaily.com

Movie director Oliver Stone wanted the world to see Cuban President Fidel Castro “in a new light,” but now the world might not get to see his portrayal, after HBO opts to pull “Comandante” from its programming schedule, reports the Reuters News Agency.

“In light of recent events, we felt unless Oliver Stone can return to Cuba and interview Castro ... it was somewhat dated and incomplete,” the cable television network spokeswoman told Reuters.

HBO’s website lists a brief description of “Comandante” on its “upcoming documentaries” page. But unlike the other production listed on the page, it doesn’t offer a schedule of showtimes.

Under cover of the war in Iraq, the Cuban government earlier this month began a massive crackdown on Cuban dissidents, arresting some 75 government opponents, human rights activists and independent journalists and sentencing them to prison terms of up to 28 years.

The communist regime also executed by firing squad three men who took part in the hijacking of a Cuban passenger ferry in an attempt to flee to the United States.

“Comandante” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It was slated to air on HBO in May.

WorldNetDaily has reported that those who have seen the documentary and understand the atrocities committed by Castro from mass killings to holding of political prisoners to sponsorship of terrorism say it is a one-sided propaganda piece that portrays the Cuban dictator as an international cultural and political hero.

In the 93-minute documentary, which was culled from 30 hours of intimate interviews over three days, Castro likens himself to a “prisoner” because of his devotion to running the communist island nation, according to a review by the Miami Herald.

Castro remarks, ‘‘One of the greatest benefits of the revolution is even our prostitutes are college graduates.’’

‘‘I am a dictator to myself, a slave to the people,’’ Castro confides to Stone.

“He is a movie star,” Stone declared of Castro, who has long been a favorite of Hollywood stars from Stone to Robert Redford and even Steven Spielberg, who recently returned from a trip to Cuba urging the embargo be lifted.

Stone’s intention with “Comandante” is clearly to entertain and he makes no attempt to show the desperation and poverty of Cuba under the repressive Castro regime, reports the Herald reviewer. To the contrary, the portrayal of the 76-year-old dictator is that of a charming, “magnetic and charismatic” elder statesman, according to the reviewer, and a man who has regrets.

‘‘I have not spent much time with my children. Perhaps I am not a good father,’’ Castro reportedly admits.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the skewed presentation prompted the Miami International Film Festival to pass on showing “Comandante” over fears it might have inflamed the Cuban exile community.

The HBO spokeswoman told Reuters that executives had talked to Stone about possibly returning to Cuba to update his documentary, but nothing conclusive had been decided.

Meanwhile, a 53-nation panel on human rights gave the Cuban regime a slap on the wrist yesterday. The United Nations Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution that calls on Cuba to allow a monitor selected by the panel to visit the country to assess human-rights conditions.

But the panel, which is currently chaired by Libya, stopped short in its rebuke. Members voted down an amendment to express ‘‘deep concern’’ over the arrests and call for the immediate release of jailed dissidents.

On Tuesday, the Bush administration weighed in on the recent escalation of repression.

“When you look at what they have done in recent weeks and recent months with respect to stifling dissent, with respect to arresting people and sentencing them to long years in prison, in jail, just for expressing a point of view that is different from that of Fidel Castro, it should be an outrage to everyone,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell. “It should be an outrage to every leader in this hemisphere, every leader in this world.”

Powell called on Castro to free “prisoners of conscience” and said the U.S. would be unrelenting in assisting Cubans who seek peaceful change.

The New York Times reports U.S. officials are considering a series of steps to punish Cuba, including cutting off cash payments to relatives in Cuba or halting direct flights to the island.

At the same time, Castro may be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to an exile group for the 1996 shoot-down of its planes by Cuban MiG fighter jets.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the public-interest group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit last May against Castro, the Republic of Cuba and Castro’s brother, Raul, who is commander in chief of the Cuban Air Force, on behalf of Jose Basulto, founder and president of the Miami-based humanitarian group Brothers To The Rescue.

In February, a federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., heard testimony in the damages phase of a lawsuit that seeks in excess of $40 million.

Judicial Watch is also suing Castro in the Belgian Royal Courts for crimes against humanity.

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