I Am Cuba, the Siberian Mammoth

Director: Vicente Ferraz
Screenwriters: Vicente Ferraz

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


Contemporary film critics regard the epic film I Am Cuba as a modern masterpiece. The 1964 Cuban/Soviet coproduction marked a watershed moment of cultural collaboration between two nations. Yet the film never found a mass audience, languishing for decades until its reintroduction as a "classic" in the 1990s. Vicente Ferraz explores the strange history of this cinematic tour de force, and the deeper meaning for those who participated in its creation.

In the revolutionary fervor of the 1960s, Cuba concentrated remarkable energy on establishing a new film culture. In a gesture of affirmation, a team of Soviet filmmakers, headed by director Mikhail Kalatozov, entered into a coproduction with several film craftsmen in the island nation. Commemorating Cuba's political struggles and ideals, the film featured haunting performances by nonprofessional actors, and bravura technical innovations still astonishing for their audacity and beauty. These elements are recalled by technicians, actors, and bureaucrats still living in Cuba, who reflect on the film's conception, its strange hybridization of Slavic and tropical influences, and its ultimate canonization by directors including Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Combining art appreciation and shrewd social history, Ferraz casts a wistful glance at the unique, if tenuous, conditions that inscribed this ghostly monument to a nation's ideals.

— Shannon Kelley

Screening Details

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