Castro’s Spies is an espionage documentary that dissects the subterfuge planning of the Cuban Five, a group of Cuban spies that assumed false identities for several years while living in Miami in order to procure U.S intelligence.
Directed by Gary Lennon and Ollie Aslin, this entirely Irish production offers a distinctly neutral standpoint to the heated political tensions between the U.S and Cuba regarding the arrests of the Cuban Five. In doing so, it presents a chronological timeline of events of the rise of Fidel Castro and political tensions between Cuba and the United States, as well as how the individuals behind the Cuban Five became entangled in broader international diplomacy.
The meticulous re-invention of new personalities seldom resembles the spy stereotype of James Bond. Instead, the Cuban Five members illuminate the mundane and time-consuming process in which they simply memorised and rehearsed information about their new personas, even recalling exact wording and behaviours decades later. Not only this, the documentary showcases tactics utilised to convince authorities of their citizenship by taking photos of themselves at different landmarks, wearing alternate outfits, but the photographs were often taken on the same day.
All five members, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez, feature prominently to not only highlight their individual roles, but are confronted by the emotional sacrifices made by those they left behind in Cuba. Here lies the emotional core of the film where former loved ones and friends associated with their previous life share their point of view. For example, Olguita Salanueva, Rene’s wife, divulges a candid letter she wrote to her husband when he mysteriously left the family, expressing an outpouring of grief and anger at his betrayal. Her sense of loss and bewilderment offers a human touch to a Cold War political thriller. Nevertheless, each member of the Cuban Five intriguingly still portray a steely resolve for their mission and contain any excess emotion when discussing their families, which reveals just as much as it conceals.
The film seamlessly interweaves archival footage with talking heads, while also juxtaposing the action-packed Cuban television program ‘In Silence it Had to be Done’ that follows similarly covert spy missions, all of which offer effective stylistic flourishes of the tight scrapes the Cuban Five navigated.
The wide political and personal scale of Castro’s Spies presents a sympathetic view of the Cuban Five, while offering a comprehensive historical viewpoint from a range of fascinating sources.