Embargo: An Old Question Nobody Wants to Answer

Embargo: An Old Question Nobody Wants to Answer


Abel FL Berriz

Regal South Beach. Sunday. Last day of the Miami Film Festival.

A crowd of people in line. Waiting. The hall is apparently full. It seems the documentary is appealing.

Many old people. Some rather young as well. Cubans? Most of them look like Cubans, but Cubans sometimes look like anything and, on the other hand, it’s rare to find someone in Miami with no Cuban roots at all.

Finally, I get inside. The hall is full, indeed. I have to take a seat in one of the front rows.

The documentary had started already. Embargo. A 2017 film by Jeri Rice. The story of Cuba. The story of my life. Of our lives.

Jeri Rice, the director, met Fidel Castro years ago, during a diplomatic embassy to Havana. The meeting astonished her—“I’m meeting the devil,” she thought. Later, she questioned this impression. The guy had a way with women, everybody knows that.

It became a personal journey for her: understanding the embargo; understanding more than fifty years of—apparently—ineffective policies towards Cuba.

Rice interviews many people, Cuban or Cuban-related, in and outside Cuba, trying to capture the most of opinions. Different perspectives, although most of them concurrent: Lucie Arnaz, Ricardo Alarcón, Russ Baker, Jorge Perez, Robert Kennedy Jr., Sergei Khrushchev… Perhaps too concurrent.

Cuba is a complicated issue, and one that has lasted too long. “Why has this situation lasted that long?” That’s a question repeated throughout the 92 minutes of Embargo. “Trying the same thing once and again, and every time expecting different results, that’s madness,” someone says somewhere in the middle of the film.

The “Cuban issue” has too much behind. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too many interests involved. Are those still on?

It’s too much emotional. Documentary and reality. Too much emotional. I can hardly write about this. I wouldn’t like to write about this. Nobody would.

Nobody Cuban, at least.

But we should talk about it. Why can’t we talk about it?

Embargo doesn’t give the answers. It makes you wonder, instead. It makes us the question.

And it leaves us with that question.

It is, perhaps, too naïve. Rice is no filmmaker, you could say—she comes from the world of fashion. For some people, Embargo is too leaned towards the Cuban government’s policies. It repeats once and again the same statements we’ve heard so many times. There’s no polemic, no discussion. And Cuba is not such a simple issue.

Still, the film is appealing, and emotional. I almost cried—actually, I did, but I won’t tell you I did—here and there, watching the streets of Havana again, watching the suffering of its people. I think the subject deserves more than that, but, at least, it makes you wonder. It makes us that question.

And then leaves us with that question.

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