Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Lost City: The Film and the Truth about Che

I recently watched The Lost City, an Andy Garcia film about family ties set against the backdrop of the communist revolution in Cuba.

There's plenty of nostalgia--even the title echoes Margaret Mitchell's portrayal of an idealized South being "Gone With the Wind"). However, as it tells its beautifully filmed story, The Lost City does not gloss over the abuses of Batista's government. It shows Batista's regime for what it was.

However, the film refuses to use Batista's tyranny as a justification for Castro's despotism. In many ways--and I am hardly the first to observe this--The Lost City is a breath of fresh air. Finally a film depicts Castro and his "revolutionaries" for what they were: goons.

Ernesto "Che" Guevera finally gets his. Under Garcia's direction, "Che" is portrayed as the arrogant, bloodthirsty, and overall loathsome piece of Marxist-Leninist filth that, for some odd reason, has resonated so romantically to college students (and professors) throughout the country.

In a nutshell, the dashing and daring "Che" can be summed up in his final moments: As Bolivian forces prepared to execute the captured agitator, he--he who had lined up so many to be shot--begged, "Don't shoot – I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"

Nathan Hale he wasn't.

I've never believe in the "Che" that Hollywood and Berkley have portrayed, mostly because I have good reason to doubt the source. However, I've read a few things. "Che" like all Marxist revolutionaries, was a thug. He wasn't even a successful thug as, say, Stalin. Che's success has come as a martyr for a cause that most of his fans only vaguely (if even that much) understand.

From viewers of The Lost City:

I was happy to finally see a movie about the Cuban revolution that highlighted another side of the story. The only reason I did not give this a 5 star rating is because I would have like to have seen the non-Castro revolutionary side featured more and of course given more substance than what was shown in the movie. I was happy to see that the Che was NOT idolized in this movie. It was about time he was shown for what he truly became years after the "idealistic" Che portrayed in Motorcycle Diaries. If you are of Cuban heritage, even if you are a first generation American (like me), you will feel this movie.

My family and I were still in Cuba when Castro rolled in to Havana and Batista fled the country. We were not part of the upper class, but we watched in dismay how the revolutionaries acted towards anyone who owned even a house. My brother was arrested for protesting the militia's tactics and was thrown in jail for 3 years without a trial; my father was threatened not to reopen his small store; my mother was kicked out of our home when the government found out my sister and I had left the country. Other members of our family suddenly found their home invaded by strangers moving in - simply because they had a 3-bedroom home and the revolution deemed it "too imperialistic" to have such vast space for one family only. Andy Garcia deserves more than an Oscar for directing such a powerful movie. Perhaps to those who did not go through the revolution, the movie may come across as too "sentimental". To those of us who lived it, it was a painful and sad reminder of a moment in time that changed our lives, and a country, forever.


Politically, its about time someone gave an accurate portrayal of what happened in Havana and Andy did just that. Yes, the movie received negative reviews from the media. Had the film glorified the revolution and idolized the Che, perhaps the reviews would have been positive. In any event, it was refreshing to see the truth. Many families were torn apart as in the movie. The scene where the revolutionary brother evicts the uncle is real. My own father went to his office one morning to find soldiers at the door telling him that the spring water company that he built and nurtured was no longer his. He was not allowed to even take his personal belongings. This happened to most of the Cuban middle class. Many scenes evoked childhood memories for me. I gave it a 5 not only for the beautiful rendition of the Havana I remember. It deserves it for telling a truth seldom heard of the Havana so many of us exiles love and cherish.

So go ahead and give The Lost City a shot. It's not the greatest film ever made, but it gives a good enough crash course in what happens when socialists control arsenals.

Oh, and screw Ernesto "Che" Guevera.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:49 AM

    Lost City is a great movie. It is sad that not so many people know about it. Andy should get all the awards in that year.


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