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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October 2003, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Inside the mind of Fidel Castro
by Richard Allen Greene
BBC News Online

Fidel Castro
Castro is happy to talk about the past but not the future
Oliver Stone, the filmmaker behind Platoon, The Doors and JFK, revisits another icon of his youth in his documentary about Fidel Castro.

Castro offered the director startling access for Comandante - three 10-hour filming sessions.

The result is a compelling and sympathetic portrait of the man who has been a thorn in America's side for more than 40 years.

Perhaps most surprising is his frequent display of humour.

He laughs about his inability to keep up with Boris Yeltsin's drinking and teasingly suggests that Stone should leave a skinny cameraman behind in Cuba so Castro can fatten him up.

Given free rein to talk, Castro dicusses everything from his personal fitness regime to his taste in movies.

Fidel Castro and Oliver Stone
Stone (right) stays neutral

He admits to crushes on all the movie stars of his youth, especially Brigitte Bardot, and tells Stone that although he saw Titanic on video, he felt it would have been better on a big screen.

He talks about the Cuban missile crisis and reminisces about Kennedy, Kruschev and Che Guevara.

But the veteran leader refuses to be drawn on the question of who will succeed him, and he bristles at the suggestion that Cuba is full of informers working for the security forces.

He angrily denies that prisoners are tortured in his country, rejecting Stone's comment that international observers have said otherwise.

Stone declines to sit in judgement, although he does allow the camera to drift over the Communist leader's BMW and - most extraordinary of all - Nike trainers.

The film is well edited, drawing on archive footage to illustrate moments in Castro's history and Cuba's - though it does not benefit from Stone's repeated use of the hackneyed Evita tune Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.

Critics of both the director and the subject will undoubtedly attack Comandante as apologist, but historians and today's filmgoers are sure to benefit from this wide-ranging and eminently watchable look at the ever-fascinating Castro.

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18 Apr 03 |  Film


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