The sad, little-known story of the deportation of Cuban-born children to the U.S. is recounted in “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba,” but rudimentary filmmaking virtually ensures that this particular docu telling will remain obscure. It’s unfortunate, since vet documaker Estela Bravo has pursued this slice of early Cuban revolutionary history since 1999, when she interviewed a number of the grown kids in the U.S.-sponsored “Operation Peter Pan.” Low-grade vid lensing, below-par editing and lack of broadcast-worthy production values will prevent exposure beyond niche Latin fests.
As a measure of the hysteria that arose in the wake of the pro-Marxist revolution, some parents — convinced that the Fidel Castro regime would remove their children from their homes — decided to send their kids to the U.S. via Operation Peter Pan, a program overseen by British-born, Havana-based teacher Penny Powers and financed by the U.S. State Dept. and the Catholic Church. Gambit resulted in a wave of unintended emotional scars for the kids, which they express before Bravo’s camera. Pic ends with a return to the homeland by the group, struggling with torn emotions and palpable bitterness.