It was inevitable that Oliver Stone’s trip to Havana to shoot 30 hours of interview with Fidel Castro would unleash a storm of controversy. Hawkish US commentators couldn’t miss a chance to condemn Stone, and HBO, having bought the film, then decided not to show it. There’s no doubt the director, who shares centre stage with Fidel himself, looks a little too pleased with himself for landing this coup, and as he develops a chummy camaraderie with his host, issues like Castro’s human rights record and his laughable claim that Cuba is in some way democratic go without scrutiny. But then, a similar film about Bush or Blair would reveal a good deal less, and Stone’s greatest achievement was simply to get Castro to sit and talk at length about the Cuban revolution, his relations with US presidents and Russian leaders, the Bay of Pigs invasion, his memories of Che Guevara, Vietnam and much more. When did anybody ever hear him do that before?
Castro has grown wily during his 45 years in power, and artfully plays the role of avuncular old cove, joking about his beard and how George Bush would like to see him dead, and growing somewhat coy about his relationships with women (“it has not been a life without love”). You almost end up falling for his schtick, before remembering that he’s a hardline revolutionary with an armour-plated hide. Fascinating film-making, nevertheless.