Finding Fidel tells the remarkable story of war cameraman Erik Durschmied, who in 1958 journeyed to Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains to interview a little-known rebel leader named Fidel Castro. A month later, Castro’s band of fighters rolled into Havana, and the world would never be the same.
Intercutting Durschmeid’s reflections on the lost promise of Castro’s Revolution with his rarely seen interview with the young Fidel, award winning filmmaker Bay Weyman explores the hinge of fate, the vagaries of history, and the power of media in both men’s lives.
Durschmied spent weeks in Castro’s guerrilla headquarters, filming fascinating scenes of camp life with the rebels, and conducting the only known English-language interview with Fidel from the period just before he came to power. The interview is a unique time capsule, vividly depicting Castro’s early views, his struggle against the dictator Batista, and his goals for the Revolution.
“There is no Communism or Marxism in our idea,” Fidel insists. “Our political philosophy is representative democracy and social justice in a well-planned economy.”
Finding Fidel follows Durschmied as he returns to Cuba on the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution, retracing his original route to the mountains. Durschmied tells the true story behind his interviews with Fidel, and of the future dictator’s consummate use of the media to control his message and create his image. The daring young cameraman brought Castro’s message to the world just as Havana fell, and as a result his career took off.
Though he has witnessed many of the major events of our times, for Durschmied the interview on a mountaintop in Cuba remains the most meaningful. As he returns to Castro’s camp in the Sierra Maestra, he finds an unexpected touchstone that marks the beginning and end of the journey.
This is the story of the unhealthy meeting of two cultures: an indigenous tribe, the Yanomami and the western anthropologists who came to the Amazon to study them. Over three decades the Yanomami Indians were transformed from the “last Stone Age tribe” so prized by those anthropologists to the most exhaustively documented and filmed tribe on earth.
Napoleon Chagnon built his reputation – and sold over a million books – by claiming to demonstrate the innate ferocity of Yanomami. He dubbed them The Fierce People. In 1968 his biggest expedition and most famous film were both lavishly funded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He targeted world-famous geneticist Dr James Neel, who literally wanted their blood – he was on the lookout for a ‘virgin soil’ population and was keen to know how diseases spread through such populations. Coincidentally or otherwise, a serious and deadly outbreak of measles happened during their expedition, killing hundreds in its wake.
Chagnon friend and fellow anthropologist Jacques Lizot, was a young prodigy and favoured student of the godfather of cultural anthropology and French intellectual icon, Claude Levi-Strauss. Like practically all other anthropologists in the field, they both distributed gifts, in order to ease their way into a tribe’s affections. “Chagnon is the golden goose for the Yanomami. He brings steel tools, machetes, fishhooks and they tell him what they think he wants to hear.” Lizot’s gifts included shotguns, but his favours were not confined to the academic and his illegal sexual predations amongst the Yanomami were kept sated over years, funded by the Collège de France and Académie Française over decades.
A leaked email from two top anthropologists notes: “This nightmarish story – a real anthropological Heart Of Darkness is beyond the imagining of even a Josef Conrad – though not, perhaps, a Josef Mengele.”