Stoned on Castro no one should be surprised

Published 15 years ago -  - 15y ago 54


Image courtesy of Marcelo Montecino under CC BY-SA 2.0.

“In Cuba, I observed an openness and freedom that I had not found in any other country in the region, the Caribbean or Central America. I . . . have never seen the kind of spontaneous affection for a leader expressed on the streets as I have seen in Cuba towards Fidel.” — Oliver Stone, giving comments before the premier of his second movie about Castro, “Looking For Fidel,” at the 52nd San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain.

Ah yes, the glorious people “on the streets,” imbued with an almost supernatural wisdom, the absolute last word in the legitimacy of a leader and of a political system.  How could they possibly be wrong, especially when Stone doesn’t want them to be? Of course, if they happen to be people on the streets of towns and cities in any of the red states of America and profess to admire President Bush, I’m guessing Stone wouldn’t consider them quite so wise. In that case, they might just be a bunch of right- wing reactionaries whose affection for their leader is a result either of mental instability or inherent evil.

Given Stone’s history and his politics, no one should be particularly surprised at this latest celluloid paean to his favorite dictator. In Stone’s mind, Castro epitomizes revolutionary chic and Cuba is a land not of grinding poverty, iron-fisted authoritarianism and washed-up communistic ideology, but rather an uncorrupt utopia of free health care, exemplary educational standards and simply some of Latin America’s happiest people.

Just close your eyes and imagine an idyllic tropical island where the masses “on the streets” are prone to spontaneous exaltations about their beloved leader and voluntarily congregate in stifling heat to hear Fidel’s frequent five-hour public “speeches.” Imagine, further, that the delightful conditions in Cuba are a result of Fidel and his merry band of charismatic comrades who decades ago selflessly came down from the mountains and out of the jungles to overthrow the yoke of capitalist slave drivers and set up a workers’ paradise. It’s a quite lovely reverie, is it not?

When a journalist at the Film Festival in Spain had the temerity to interrupt that reverie and ask Stone if the scenes of popular expressions for Castro in his movie were staged, he replied that he knew none of it was fake. “I have directed actors and I know when people are pretending and when they are not,” he said.

Well, sure, Oliver, but isn’t it a bit tougher to interpret the true emotions of large masses of people in a foreign country than it is to notice that Woody Harrelson, for instance, just isn’t giving a convincing performance on the set one day, probably due to the previous night’s overindulgence in controlled substances?

Not withstanding Stone’s delusions of grandeur where his interpretive powers are concerned, let’s imagine that he’s right and that the majority of Cubans think that Castro is indeed the cat’s meow. All right, then, so what?

Vast numbers of people sincere in their adulation of a dictator doesn’t mean that it’s all just fine and dandy. Vast numbers of people thought that Hitler was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Ditto Hirohito. Vast numbers of people right now sincerely believe that Osama bin Laden’s vision of an oppressive pan-Arab Muslim theocracy where infidels are summarily beheaded is just the greatest idea that’s ever been hatched.

But let’s give it to Stone that Cubans–at least the ones that haven’t already fled at the risk of their lives like millions of others–are truly fond of the bearded one. Wouldn’t it still be nice–not to mention decent, moral and just–if those adoring masses had an opportunity to actually vote for their leader the same way Stone does and the way the people of almost every other country in Latin America do?

Stone apparently fails to see anything the least bit unseemly in the fact that while he will be punching in his vote against Bush with supreme relish come November, nobody in Cuba gets to say word one about Fidel’s thus far 45-year “presidency” without risking prison or a firing squad.

What is it about the mind of Stone that allows him to divine, on the one hand, an insanely arcane and labyrinthine conspiracy in the death of JFK involving the FBI, CIA, Supreme Court and Lyndon Johnson, but does not allow him to see the utterly obvious, which is that Castro is a murdering megalomaniacal dictator?

Stone’s belief system is, no doubt, a result of the ’60s, mind-altering drugs, Vietnam and Watergate, all of which when combined created a maturity-stunting brew that caused intellectual as well as moral confusion for so many of the baby boom generation. Of course, tens of millions from that generation did manage to eventually grow up and get beyond all the countercultural nonsense that sounded so appealing when they were stoned adolescents grooving to a trippy pyschedelic soundtrack.

But not Oliver. In 1991, twenty years after rock star Jim Morrison was found dead in the bathtub at age 27, Stone made a worshipful movie about him. While most of us are able to pretty much see Morrison for what he really was, a moderately talented, booze- and drug-addicted wretch, Stone sees him as some sort of countercultural pied piper of self-expression who fought the oppressive and hypocritical restraints of mainstream society until the day he died.

Is it possible that in Stone’s mind, Castro is some kind of Jim Morrison-like anti-establishment figure, only in fatigues, running his hapless little country at the glorious displeasure of the big bad United States for all these years?

Who knows? The only thing we can be sure of is that Stone remains on a permanent hallucinatory trip unencumbered by any realities that have occurred on the ground since Woodstock and Vietnam. Castro’s reign of murder and oppression may seem like a delectable anti-American triumph to Stone, but to most others it’s just been a 45-year long bummer.


Published originally at : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”


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