Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New documentary details history of violence against Cuba

Screenshots from trailer of "Will the Real Terrorists Please Stand Up?"

California filmmaker Saul Landau's new documentary, "Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up," contains a diverse cast of characters from both sides of the Florida Straits.
It's a real Who's Who of key figures in the more than half-century-long grudge match over Cuba. I'll list some of the characters here to give you an idea.
But first, here are some of my favorite lines from the documentary:
  • "I got $1,000 to plant a bomb, plus a paid vacation in Cuba. Not bad, huh?" - Otto Rene Rodriguez, a Salvadoran who said anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles gave him bomb-making instructions.
  • "Like you Americans say - No comment" - Posada Carriles.
  • "You fight against Castro, you're a freedom fighter" - Orlando Bosch, anti-Castro militant
  • "Miami is the only city in the United States with its own foreign policy" - Jose Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue
  • "I was sleeping. It was around 6 a.m. I remember hearing like someone was breaking the lock. I was surrounded by people with machine guns, helmets and all the stuff you see in movies. They examined my mouth. They had seen too many James Bond movies. They thought I had cyanide in my mouth" - former Cuban agent Gerardo Hernandez describing his Sept. 12, 1998.
  • "Posada assured me he could put a bullet in his head." - Antonio Veciana, who recalled a failed assassination plot against Fidel Castro. Veciana said Posada Carriles told him he could kill Castro with a high-powered rifle as he climbed off a plane in Quito, Ecuador, while returning from his 1971 trip to Chile. Landau writes more about that in this March 2010 Progreso Weekly article. Veciana founded Alpha 66, an anti-Castro group that received financial support from the CIA, this biography says. In the documentary, Veciana questions whether his approach toward Cuba was the correct one.
"Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up" debuted on Dec. 11, 2010, at the Havana International Festival of Latin American Film. That version of the film had Spanish subtitles.
A showing of the documentary with English subtitles is scheduled for March 10 at the University of California at Berkeley Journalism School. See 16-minute trailer here.
I previewed a Feb. 7 cut of the film with English subtitles. The 81-minute documentary includes mostly original interviews, along with some archival footage and interviews with some people who are no longer alive. There is video from the 40th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs reunion in Cuba in April 2001 that I haven't seen anywhere else.
The film opens with actor Danny Glover standing in a parking lot and asking Americans what they know about the case of the Cuban Five. People don't know much, it turns out. "Is that a salsa band?" one woman asks. No, it's a rock band, another person said. Still another thought the Cuban Five were semi-finalists in the Pan American Games.
Some of the other characters appearing in the documentary include:
  • Fidel Castro
  • Ricardo Alarcon, head of the Cuban parliament
  • Fabian Escalante, former Cuban state security official
  • Raul Roa, former Cuban ambassador
  • Nestor Garcia, Cuban diplomat
  • Luis Posada Carriles, former CIA operative who is accused of perjury and other charges
  • Roberto Hernandez Caballero, a Cuban state security official and witness against Posada Carriles
  • Elizabeth Palmeiro, wife of jailed Cuban agent Ramón Labañino
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida lawmaker who is showing saying she'd welcome any efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro
  • Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor
  • Paul McKenna, a lawyer for Gerardo Hernandez
  • Leonard Weinglass, a lawyer in the Cuban Five case
  • Dan Fisk, former senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council
  • Mort Halperin, a former Department of Defense official who served in the Johnson, Nixon and Clinton administrations
  • Ninoska Perez, a founder of the Cuban Liberty Council
  • Alfredo Duran, a Cuban-American leader who took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion
  • Nelson P. Valdes, director of the Cuba-L Project
  • Silvia Wilhelm, executive director of Puentes Cubanos
  • Ann Louise Bardach, an author who has interviewed and written about Posada Carriles. In the documentary, a sign that is just behind her shoulder reads: "Fuck Communism."
  • Richard Goodwin, a former advisor to John F. Kennedy
  • Sam Halpern, a former CIA official and chief organizer of Operation Mongoose
  • L. Carter Cornick, a retired FBI agent
  • Don Bohning, a former correspondent for the Miami Herald 
  • Max Lesnik, a Miami radio director
  • Alberto Milian, a Miami lawyer
  • Sandra Levinson, director of the Center for Cuban Studies
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell.
  • Armando Perez Roura, Miami radio host
  • Edmundo Garcia, Miami radio host
  • John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party
  • Skip Brandon, former FBI counter-terrorism agent
The film will be distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. For more information contact saul.landau.films@gmail.

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