Cuba, An African Odyssey documents a little-known part of history: the close relationship between Cuba and several African states – including South Africa, Angola and the Congo – at the height of the ‘Cold’ War. Using archival footage and a range of intriguing interviews with key figures including Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela, this documentary unravels the way in which Africa was used as a battleground on which tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were played out .
The story begins with Nelson Mandela’s first foreign visit (to Cuba) after his release from prison. The viewer is then taken back to the start of Cuba’s long engagement with Africa from 1960 onwards, beginning with independence in the Congo, and the subsequent assassination of its first president Patrice Lumumba.
Cuba also contributed to South Africa’s liberation struggle by fighting against apartheid-governed South African forces during the Angolan civil war. In 1995, Mandela commemorated this contribution when addressing delegates in Johannesburg: ‘Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours. As Southern Africans we salute them.’
The techniques used by filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri shed new light on this fascinating period of history, and allow us to see the advent of independence in Africa from a refreshing perspective.
Awarded prizes at Vues d’Afrique de Montréal 2007, Sunny Side of the Docs, Marseille 2006 and FESPACO 2007.