Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hector Cruz Sandoval: KordaVision, Part 1

In the beginning of this spirited 2005 documentary, director Hector Cruz Sandoval* provides background on how he became drawn to his subject. He grew up in an urban Catholic Mexican American milieu in the 1960s, becoming more aware of things as he went along. "The Vietnam War was a big issue, taking a toll on our families." In 1969, an uncle was drafted and served in the war. By the time of his return, group conciousness had been raised further and, with many relatives, they became involved in the Chicano civil rights movement; Our Lady of Guadalupe, César Chávez, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa and Che Guevara were among the movement's icons.

On August 29, 1970, the Chicano Moratorium anti-war rally in East L.A. drew a violent police crackdown. Hector Cruz Sandoval: "I realized that day that to voice one's opinions and to ask questions leads to the truth."

In 1998, he was posted to Cuba to cover the visit of Pope John Paul II. Cut to the Pope's words during that trip: "The world must get closer to Cuba."  The U.S. travel ban on Cuba seemed as ridiculous then as it does now.

Cut back to a deadly explosion on the docked freighter La Coubre in Havana Harbor on March 4, 1960, an act of sabotage (and still, by some accounts, a mystery, like the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898) perpetrated by CIA operatives. La Coubre was unloading munitions from Belgium.

At the memorial service the next day, Cuban leaders, supporters and VIP visitors Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir paid homage to those killed in the explosion and aftermath. Alberto Korda, using his Leica M2 with 90 mm lens, photographed the event. He took two shots of Che Guevara, a portrait and a landscape angle. One of these shots, "a photo that was pure chance," as Korda reflected, became the iconic shot of Che the world has known particularly since 1967, after Che's death: Guerrillero Heroico.

*Note: I'm working from the 2008 DVD; in it, the main credits go with Héctor Cruz Sandoval and KORDA VISION; other variations drop the Spanish accent mark in Héctor, modify the title slightly to KordaVision and add informal subtitles like "The Man Who Shot Che Guevara" and "A Cuban Revelation." The film itself is bilingual with Spanish subtitles during English sections and English subtitles for Spanish sections, a very effective approach.

Excellent documentary. Part 2 tomorrow.

Today's Rune: Signals.  

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