on October 18, 2002 by Susan Green
Yankees beware: Estela Bravo's "Fidel" is not a very balanced portrait of the controversial Cuban leader, who has confounded American intelligence operatives out to kill him ever since the 1959 revolution. While it lacks opposing perspectives, the documentary presents remarkable footage. A rather flabby Castro swimming with his bodyguards in the warm waters of the Caribbean might just be the most startling image among many. Second place surely goes to the moment, during a victory speech four decades ago, when hundreds of white doves were released over the crowd and one chose to land on his shoulder. Superstitious people saw it as a sign.

   There's also an early Edward R. Murrow television interview with a charming Fidel in pajamas, sitting next to his young son of the same name, who holds a puppy.

   Warm and fuzzy gives way to the loquacious, angry guerrilla commander in a requisite military uniform. Are U. S. citizens ever provided with any information, visual or otherwise, that would suggest the human being inside the fatigues?

   Bravo's credentials stretch back some 30 years, with extensive nonfiction work broadcast on PBS and CBC. She had unique access to Castro, seen in a reflective mood and displaying a keen sense of humor. World leaders such as Nelson Mandela warmly embrace him. There are also commentaries, generally disapproving of American foreign policy, from novelists Alice Walker and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, director Sydney Pollack, singer Harry Belafonte and former diplomat Wayne Smith. But the critical voice of the exile community is missing. At the very least, it would have been appropriate to once again hear the shrill cries of little Elian's infamous Miami relatives. Starring Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Walker, Sydney Pollack, Harry Belafonte, Nelson Mandela and Wayne Smith. Directed and written by Estela Bravo. Produced by Elizabeth Beer. An Urbanworld release. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 93 min.

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