An effective demonstration of how Fidel Castro’s ideological apparatus works is provided by “8-A,” a reconstruction of the 1989 trial and execution of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez. Docu’s relevance and interesting format make it a likely bet for PBS, cable and other venues.
Ochoa, the highest-ranking general of the Cuban revolution and commander-in-chief in the Angolan and other military campaigns, was one of the country’s most beloved heroes before his arrest in 1989. 8-A, a code for his name in Spanish, appeared in street graffiti at the time of the trial. Ochoa was part of a group that was convicted and executed for drug trafficking, a crime labeled by Castro as “compromising the dignity and honor of the country.”
Docu’s point of departure — and the event that precipitated the collective arrest — is a dinner party at which Ochoa and other members of the power elite were secretly recorded while reportedly expressing their discontent with Cuba’s political and economic conditions. Two weeks later, they were arrested, though the drug charges were made later, suggesting that Castro was trying to conceal the real issues of political schism and conspiracy.
At the trial, which aired on Cuban state TV, the accused not only confessed to all the charges against them, but also expressed repentance for “betraying the Fatherland and the Revolution.” While focusing on the trial, docu raises provocative questions concerning human rights in a dictatorial regime. In its structure, urgency and tone, “8-A” resembles “Z” and other Costa-Gavras political thrillers. Constructed from trial tapes from the Italian web RAI, docu presents its case in an orderly, yet always stimulating, manner.