Andy Garcia Flambés Fidel
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
Actor Andy Garcia felt driven to make his new film, "The Lost City."
"It's a great story, but selling a Cuban story to Hollywood wasn't easy," Garcia told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I had the first draft of this film in 1991. I had the support of Paramount back then, but the head of the studio was ousted. Then for years, I couldn't get any support."
"Not telling this story wasn't an option," Garcia added.
Many of the critics have not been kind to the film. But to really appreciate this movie you have to understand the dearth of Hollywood product portraying Communism with the evil that inevitably accompanies its introduction into a country.
"There's such a lack of understanding or knowledge of what happened in that time period," Garcia told the Film Stew Web site. "Most people think the Cuban Revolution was a Marxist Revolution, but it was not. It turned into that, but that's not what people were fighting for. In fact, that was not what Fidel Castro's own manifesto stated."
The script, written by recently deceased Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, contains dialogue with the phrase "Darkness at Noon," a reference to the famous novel by Arthur Koestler about the notorious show trials in Stalin's Soviet Union during the 1930s.
Garcia produced, directed, starred in and scored much of the film. He even included three of his four children as cast members in the movie. "My eldest daughter plays Enrique Murciano's wife; my little boy plays their son," Garcia said. "An actress that was supposed to play the waitress in the Cuban-Chinese restaurant couldn't leave America, so my middle daughter stepped in and played the waitress."
The movie is a European-inspired period piece, which begins during the last brutal days of Fulgencio Batista, the fascist dictator, that ultimately led to the revolution that installed Castro as a Communist dictator.
Garcia cast himself as a Havana nightclub owner named Fico, who is one of three brothers.
Fico's brothers, Luis (Nestor Carbonell) and Ricardo (Enrique Murciano), become involved in the revolution. During the tumult, Fico has a romantic relationship with a woman named Aurora (played by the cinema-genic Ines Sastre). who eventually becomes a symbol for the revolutionary government.
Fico and Aurora are the classic star-crossed lovers, but in this case the star is Red. Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman have supporting roles in the film. Murray appears as a scene-stealing comedian and Hoffman as real-life mobster Meyer Lansky. The morally degenerate reality of Batista, Che Guevara and Castro is conveyed through the tale, much to the discomfort of many Hollywood purveyors of Red chic.
As one form of beast leads to another, the audience experiences the false sigh of relief that Cubans let out between the departure of Batista and the beginning of Castro's reign of terror.
Through Fico, the audience is able to encounter the thousands of little demeaning abuses of dignity that descended on Cuba as the revolutionary government took over every aspect of life.
The movie illustrates a point that we all need to be reminded of: Power corrupts even those who claim to abhor it.
Garcia has delivered a poignant, personal and organic work that demonstrates why people will risk shark-infested waters to escape from Castro's "paradise." That's also the reason why 1,600 people gave Garcia a standing ovation when the film began in Miami.
Seeing the movie makes me want to raise my glass and shout out the film's oft-made toast: "To free Cuba!"
I'll drink to that.
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Copyright © 2006
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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