'Commandante' was shelved by HBO just two weeks before its broadcast in 2003
Fourteen years ago, in the middle of George W Bush’s first presidency, controversial filmmaker Oliver Stone and a crew of documentarians travelled to Cuba for three days, visiting and filming the country’s leader Fidel Castro, who passed away on Friday, who spoke at length about topics as varied as love, politics, democracy, and others. The film was co-produced by HBO, but shelved permanently two weeks before it was set to be broadcast in 2003.
Commandante received its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival that year, but HBO distanced itself from the project after Castro’s administration in Cuba executed three hijackers of a US-bound ferry and imprisoned more than 70 political dissidents. At the time, Stone, director of such films as Wall Street, JFK and Natural Born Killers, told The New York Times: “I was heartbroken.”
Stone’s interest in the highly controversial leader did not end with the shelved documentary, as he would go on to produce a further two films about Castro, 2003’s Looking for Fidel and 2012’s Castro in Winter, which observes the socialist leader’s failing health and fading position as the leader of Cuba.
Commandante never received a cinematic release and has never been broadcast on HBO, but now a version of the 90-minute film, including Stone’s commentary, has been made available online. You can take a look at the documentary below: