Human rights abuses change timeliness of doc

With political dismay mounting over the recent crackdown in Cuba, HBO is pulling Oliver Stone’s Fidel Castro docu “Comandante” from its May schedule, saying new events have made the film “incomplete.”

“In light of the current situation in Cuba, we felt the film was incomplete,” an HBO spokesman told Daily Variety.

Stone’s film, acquired by HBO, was bound to be a political hot potato given the flattering portrayal the Cuban leader receives. But recent human rights abuses on the outlaw Island have inflamed anti-Castro sentiments in the U.S.

In a show of political force, Castro last week tried and imprisoned 75 Cuban journalists and dissidents to upward of 28-year terms and executed three ferryboat hijackers who were trying to abscond to Florida.

The doc, for which Stone got unprecedented access to Castro and the right to film in Cuba, was shot in February 2002. HBO admits that much has changed since it acquired the film for broadcast next month.

“The crackdown was the most severe in a decade and we felt that the film would appear dated,” said the HBO spokesman, who emphasized that no outside pressure had been put on the pay TV net.

HBO said it is now talking to Stone about returning to Cuba to re-interview Castro to address the current situation with political prisoners. In the meantime, the net is moving forward with another Stone doc that it considers “a more timely” film: “Persona Non Grata” which deals with the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.

On Wednesday, leading exile group the Cuban American National Foundation issued a statement commending HBO for pulling “Comandante” from its schedule.

“HBO is well known for its professional integrity and allowing an aging dictate to distort the truth and go unchallenged would not have been in keeping with that tradition,” CANF chairman Jorge Mas Santos said.

“Comendante,” a production of Media Produccion, Pentagrama Films and Morena Films, premiered at Sundance this year and was reviewed in Daily Variety on Jan 20.

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