Waiting for Fidel.
Geoff Stirling, Joey Smallwood, and Mike Rubbo argue about Cuba
My most famous documentary is Waiting for Fidel. It takes the personal film making style much further in as much as I appear on camera to keep the peace between my two warring protagonists.
I’d been invited to go down to Cuba, this was the early 70s, and film a ground breaking interview with Fidel Castro. Joey Smallwood, former Premier of Newfoundland and who had met Castro, would be asking the questions. His sidekick who was actually putting up the money and providing the private jet which flew us down there, was multimillionaire Geoff Stirling. Whilst Joey was prepared to be very impressed by what he saw in Cuba, Stirling chose to see it all as a stifling of the human spirit, of freedom, and the rights of children.
We were put up in a luxurious mansion while we waited for the interview, and as we waited we argued about amongst ourselves about various things.
The Cubans showed us on carefully guided tours that became rather surreal. We went to a showcase high school, a place for crazy people, and the Bay of pigs where the Americans had invaded.
Fidel never shows up, and after a week we leave empty-handed. Actually not because the footage I have of our encounters and our arguments perhaps makes a more interesting film than if we’d got the interview, or so I felt.
One learns a lot about Cuba is through this tragicomic movie which many people assumed was scripted. The film won prizes and is even today shown in film schools around the world. I never found out whether Fidel saw it.
National Film Board –