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Maluala (The Cuban Masterworks Collection) - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD / drama DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Samuel Claxton, Miguel Gutierrez, Adolfo Llaurado, Miguel Navarro, Hilda Oates
Director: Sergio Giral   Distributor: First Run Features
DVD release: 22 July 2008   Runtime: 80 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features: Audio Tracks (Spanish), Subtitles (English), Short Film: El Mégano (dir. Tomás Gutierrez Alea, 1955), Director biography & filmography

Maluala is a historical adventure film set in nineteenth-century Cuba with lots of parallels to contemporary events. The film's action centers on a group of runaway African slaves, cimarrons who, after battling with their Spanish masters, hide in the rugged mountains of eastern Cuba in a region called Maluala. Led by the fierce Gallo and his lieutenant Coba, the ex-slaves demand freedom and land from the Spaniards.

But discord is sown among the rebels by traitors within the group working for the Spanish. The parallel to contemporary events is with COINTELPRO, the FBI's program to infiltrate the American Left in the 1960s and '70s. The film's narrative impetus, then, is formed by the need for unity among the rebels in order to overcome their oppressive subjugation.

The characters of Gallo and Coba are parallels to Castro and Che Guevara, the leaders of the anti-Batista Cuban revolution of the 1950s. Indeed, Maluala pays homage to other revolutionary-historical events and films as well, especially Sergi Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, in which another failed revolution is portrayed as planting seeds to a later, successful one.

Rich in folklore, ritual and music, this beautifully acted and directed film is a Cuban epic, the third in a trilogy of films by Giral which seeks to explore and dramatize the origins of the Cuban revolution. It's a must-see for students of American history and for anyone eager for a fresh take on the action-adventure genre.

The DVD has an additional short film, El Mégano (1955), directed by Tomás Gutierez, and a director biography and filmography.
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reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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