Castro’s Spies – Film Review
By Brian Merriman
Director: Ollie Aslin, Gary Lennon
Writer: Ollie Aslin, Gary Lennon
Stars: René González, Gerardo Hernández, Fernando Gonzál
The film is released with the support of Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland.
It is unusual for any treatment of Cuba to come to us with anything less than a pro-US slant. So, for an Irish duo to know of this story and to explore and research it, is not the run-of-the-mill storyline you might expect from Irish filmmakers.
Ollie Aslin and Gary Lennon have done their homework well. The structure reflects a well-researched work and the presentation from grainy TV and FBI videos to contemporary footage, throwing new light on a Cold War story, perhaps not well known here and perhaps the US might have preferred to keep under wraps.
What is patriotism? Service to the nation under threat ranks highly among the lauded definitions, in both countries. In Castro’s Spies, we meet 5 Cuban men, former soldiers who answer the call of their country, to serve in combatting the threat to the Castro State from those dispossessed by the Revolution, now living and working in Florida.
There is no 007 glamour, no high lifestyle and yet a huge dedication to combatting a national threat. The US had a vested interest in toppling Fidel Castro’s regime which replaced profiteering US mafiosa with a government dedicated to the equity promised by Communism. Cuban economic sanctions and the collapse of the Soviet Union thwarted that potential.
The century of independent Cuban history set out is illuminating. The footage is revealing. The fact that the US authorities allowed the counter-revolutionaries to go unchecked on their territory exposes the contradictions that often come back to bite later in US foreign policy.
Barack Obama reset the dial to an extent in US/Cuba relations, but not before five ordinary men went to monitor and report back on the counter-revolutionary activities that did threaten the stability of their State. What unfolds during the 103 minutes is chronological, clear and well laid out. The insights of the key actors – the Cuban 5 are frank and sincere. The usual self-belief in US Justice is debated between the Prosecution convinced that Justice is served and the Defence whose jaw drops at the obvious miscarriage of justice.
The facts are refreshingly set out for us to make our own conclusions – a rarity when examining US foreign policy. An IFTA acknowledged achievement, especially for Aslin’s debut and his co-director Lennon. Castro’s Spies has won a host of awards including the Best Irish Film at the Docs Ireland Film Festival.
Castro’s Spies, a Gambit Pictures film, will be released April 28th in select Irish cinemas.
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