Improper Conduct: Almendros and Jimenez-Leal Docu of Cuban Exiles–Gays, Artists, Dissidents

The relevant documentary, Improper Conduct, consists of interviews with exiles from Castro’s Cuba–homosexuals, writers, dissidents.

Centering on human rights violations in Cuba, it’s a record of the suffering as well as a grotesque comedy of social engineering: A flamboyant Latin culture undergoes a Communist revolution, installs a straitlaced bourgeois morality, and attempts to refashion resistant personalities.

With testimony that’s both savage and convincing, Improper Conduct is an attack of Castro’s revolution.

Directed by two prominent Cuban exiles, Nestor Almendros (Oscar-winning cinematographer for “Days of Heaven”) and Orlando Jimenez-Leal (El Super 1979), the film includes interviews with 28 Cuban exiles. It focuses on the Castro government’s hard line stance against so-called “antisocial” elements in Cuba. This included political and artistic dissidents and homosexuals, particularly male homosexuals, who were seen as an embarrassment to the Latin macho image that the Castro government sought for itself.

They make no attempt to give a balanced picture of the Cuban revolution, or suggest its positive aspects. Most of the interviews describe events, which occurred in the l960s and early l970s.

What comes through is not the usual suppression of artists and journalists, but the rounding up of an entire class of harmless people. The interviews are not dull, self-righteous, or self-pitying–tales of paranoia, irrationality and injustice.

The interviewees include prominent writers and government officials, but also a number of victims of Castro’s anti-homosexual campaign.

Almendros, who was born in Barcelona and educated in Cuba, felt obliged to make the film because no one else had done it. During the Batista dictatorship, he studied filmmaking in Europe, but returned to Cuba when Castro came to power. Jimenez-Leal had a hard time working in Cuba. His film P.M. (1961) was banned and confiscated by the police.

The film centers on male homosexuality, an obsession of the Revolution–and the reason for the creation of UMAP camps. Some of the exiles were afraid to testify, many had family in Cuba and feared reprisals. A few used fake names because America has a law that can expel homosexual immigrants.

The film is not about Cuba; it’s about human rights. The Cuban film industry (ICAIC) owns all production, distribution, exhibition, and even film magazines. It’s a monopoly bigger than the Soviet industry or Film Polski.

The directors opted for a simple style; for aesthetic and economical reasons, they only had one soft light. Space was small, so most shots are medium or close-up.