Louis Proyect on new Cuban film “Epicentro”

Sep 3, 2020 by

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentent Marxist

August 28, 2020


Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 8:40 pm
by Louis Proyect


Around fifty years ago I saw “I am Cuba”, a documentary made by a Russian director. Nothing I ever saw since then came close to it except a new film titled “Epicentro” that is now available as Virtual Cinema through Kino Marquee starting today.

Directed by Hubert Sauper, it allows the Cuban people to speak for themselves and boy do they do. The stars of the film are various 10 to 14 year old Afro-Cuban girls who hold forth on the bombing of the battleship Maine, Teddy Roosevelt, imperialism and why they have self-esteem despite being poor. When I used to visit Nicaragua in the late 80s, I was struck by the things I heard from teens who had a better grasp of American politics than 90 percent of the idiots that live in this country.

The word utopia gets discussed quite a bit in the film. It has dual meanings, both as a perfect world and as no place. Cuba is utopian in a dual sense. As the world’s remaining socialist society, it embodies the hopes of a better world despite the poverty. It is also no place since its enemies regard it as a country that does not deserve to exist.

Sauper is a poet with a camera. Watching pastel-colored American cars from the 1950s brings back fond memories. They are reason enough to visit Cuba even though the best reason is to help bring foreign currency to the country.

It is impossible to describe the film since it has such a kaleidoscopic quality with characters, street scenes, the ocean crashing on the beach near Malecón, and daily life in Havana apartments cycling throughout the film.

The last Sauper film I saw was “We Come as Friends” that highlighted the “vulturistic” assault on the newly formed state of South Sudan by both the West and China in search of oil, cheap land and any other wealth that can be extracted in a 21st century version of what Karl Marx called primitive accumulation. In my review, I noted:

In a scene that will remind you of how Manhattan was “sold” to the Dutch, an elderly tribesman shows Sauper a contract he signed without understanding what it meant. It allows a Texas company to have a lease in perpetuity on hundreds of thousands of acres that belonged to a group of native villages in order to “develop” the land and extract any minerals therein. Meanwhile villagers here and everywhere else that he visits are being evicted from land they lived on for a thousand years in some cases.

Not only is Sauper a committed anti-imperialist, he is a film-making genius. Don’t miss this one if you know what is good for you. If you need any further motivation, read this Q&A with the director in the film notes:

Q: Domination and the colonial mindset are always under scrutiny in your films. They offer windows into history. How does EPICENTRO reflect on our current world politics, and more specifically, American geo-politics?

A: EPICENTRO is Cuba. This beautiful island is the epicenter of the Americas, in many ways. Geographically, it’s in the very center between north and south. Politically, it’s at the crossroads of capitalism and communism. Historically, it’s been the epicenter of Spanish America as well as the nucleus of US-American expansionism. The first U.S. flag to be raised overseas was in February 1898 on a hill overlooking Guantánamo Bay. To me this explains why Guantánamo will never be given back to Cuba. It’s symbolically too important for the empire. Havana itself is a living indictment of American history, a window into time. It is not surprising that Americans are so charmed and hypnotized by the beauty of Havana [with] its billboards from the 1950s and the amazing American architecture and old cars, which have been on the road 80-plus years. Some people dream about “making Cuba great again.” A famous American real estate tycoon has long planned a tower with his name on it. It’s the “T-word”… I don’t want to spell it. When you think that most of the hotel towers on the Malecon sea promenade were made by the Mafia kings in the 50’s, when you think that their “religion” was abuse of power, luxury, gambling, prostitution … history seems like a dirty running gag.



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