Great documentaries I’ve watched in recent days

About Fidel Castro. You’ll like this man after you’ve seen this documentary.

This is the man who turned Cuba from a poor agricultural backwater into a country with a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than many developed countries, an average life expectancy of 78, a high HDI (higher than Malaysia’s, lol), as well as being the only nation in the world to meet the WWF’s definition of sustainable development. All these while being embargoed by the US for the past 50 years, and having to deal with 638 assassination attempts by the CIA. What a man.

While studying at the University of Havana, he became a respected student leader. Due to his political activities on campus, he was arrested by the Batista regime. After his release, he started his career as a lawyer. He went outside the country to organize an armed resistance group to topple the regime.

One of the people he recruited was an Argentinian doctor who later became one of the most recognizable faces of socialism. Che Guevara agreed to join the Cuban cause after a 12 hour meeting with Castro.

Castro’s first plan to storm the capital ended with failure. With 21 survivors of the botched raid, he retreated to a mountainous region in rural Cuba and re-organized the guerrilla army. He reached out to the country using mass media, even making addresses in English for his sympathizers abroad.

When the guerrilla forces grew, it took Castro and his forces only 2 years of fighting to defeat the US-backed Batista regime. He made his triumphal entry to Havana to the cheers of thousands on the street.

During his first speech to the people as the leader of Cuba, he released a cageful of doves as a gesture of peace and reconciliation. One of the doves flew and landed on his shoulder. The Cuban people, many of them devout Christians, took this as a sign that Castro was sent by Jesus (a dove is a symbol of Christianity).

As leader of Cuba, he made several visits to the US. On the first visit, he was snubbed by President Eisenhower, who sent VP Nixon to meet him. Nixon later wrote a memo to the President saying that Castro should be assassinated. On his second visit, during which he was to address the UN General Assembly, he was chased out from his hotel. An African-American hotel owner in Harlem then offered free accommodation at his hotel to Castro and his entourage. At the hotel, Castro was visited by admiring Third World luminaries — Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru among them — and one American Muslim named Malcolm X.

One of the most enduring images of his US visit is a picture of him being embraced warmly by Nikita Khruschev, the Soviet premier and one of the most powerful man in the world at the time. When a reporter asked Khruschev whether Castro is a communist, Khruschev replied, “I don’t know whether he is a communist, but I do know one thing: I am a Fidelista”.

About Liberia, probably the shittiest place on earth, both literally and figuratively. Like everyone else, I imagine Africa to be a terrible place. But, by golly, not THIS bad.

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