In 1930's Cuba, a bank clerk and an American mercenary assist a revolutionary group in a plan to kill the President but the Cuban Secret Police chief and the dictator's military complicate the plan's execution.
1932. The tyrannical and despotic government of President Machado has headed Cuba for seven years. The latest measure of that tyranny is the outlawing of public gatherings of more than four people, such acts the government deeming treasonous. China Valdés, a young woman who works in an American bank in Havana, is generally non-political. However, she decides to join the revolutionary forces to avenge the murder of her activist brother Manolo - a murder she witnessed - at the hands of the government, the trigger pulled by a police officer she will eventually learn is named Armando Ariete. Her goal is to kill Ariete. Another of the revolutionaries, an American entertainment promoter named Tony Fenner, convinces her to hold off on her assassination, as he believes he has come up with a plan that can wipe out all the major government leaders in one fell swoop. Along with China and Tony, the Chief of the revolutionaries amasses a team of four non-related men - Guillermo, Ramón, Miguel and ...Written by
Identified by critic Thom Andersen as an example of "film gris", a suggested sub-category of film noir incorporating a left-wing narrative. See more »
This story takes place during the presidency of Gerardo Machado, which ended in 1933; however, China wears torpedo bras, which did not come into fashion until World War II; likewise China's hair style and clothing are also strictly 1949, not 1932-1933. See more »
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God": Thomas Jefferson
***SPOILERS*** Almost forgotten film about the White Terror that was unleashed on the Cuban people by the brutal and Fascist Gerardo Machado regime that lasted seven years from 1925 to 1933 when Marchado was finally driven from power in a popular and spontaneous revolution. Because of its more or less anti-corporate message, Dictator Marcado was fully supported by the US government and big business, the film "We Were Strangers" didn't get the credit or recognition that it deserved being considered pro-Communist. The film was soon put on the shelf gathering dust never to see the light of day until some thirty after it's release back in 1949.
Having her brother Manalo,Tito Renaldo, a student activist gunned down on the very steps of Havana University turned the meek and God-fearing bank clerk China Valde, Jennifer Jones, into a fiery revolutionary against the government. China joined up with a number of Cuban freedom fighters lead by American Tony Fenner, John Garfield, who masquerades around on the island as a talent scout looking for the latest in both Cuban music and dance crazes that he could bring back to America. We soon learn that Tony Fenner is really a Cuban exile named Antoino Ferrer who's father, together with his family, fled Cuba in 1925 when Machado took over.
Trying to get things going in overthrowing the Machado regime Tony who's been heavily financed by Cuban exiles, like himself, back in New York City's Spanish Harlem gets a number of his Cuban friends and fellow revolutionaries in Havana together to dig a tunnel under the Havana Cemetery. It's there they would plant some hundred pounds of explosives setting them off when a Cuban government big shot, that Tony & Co. plan to assassinate, is being laid to rest With Machado and his henchmen, political and military, in attendance thus decapitating the Machado dictatorship.
China has a far more personal reason in her covert actions in that the head of the hated Cuban Gestapo-like secret police Armondo Ariete, Pedro Armenda, was the person who gunned down, as we saw earlier in the movie, her brother Manolo. Ariete has, not knowing that he murdered her brother, been trying to make it with China since he saw her at the bank where he was checking on Cuban/USA bank money transactions. The transactions that Tony and his Cuban freedom fighters are heavily, in order to keep their resistance movement alive, involved in.
Beautifully photographed in black and white "We Were Strangers" has a strikingly sharp, and dark, film-noir quality to it with Tony and his gang of revolutionaries breaking their backs, and almost suffocating from the stench, in digging underneath and planting a giant land-mine in the middle of the Havana Cemetery. Only to have the planned funeral of Machado henchman Acento Contreras (Fred Godoy), who Tony and his gang assassinated, transfered to another cemetery outside he city because Acento's sisters wanted to have a little privacy in their brothers final send-off.
Despite a number of setbacks, like the Acento Contreras fiasco, by Tony and his revolutionary gang the Cuban people themselves later took to the streets and drove Machado from power but not before Tony, or Antiono Ferrer, Fenner's lost his life as he was gunned in a wild shootout with the police and Cuban militia at the end of the film.
It was ruthless tyrants like Gerardo Machado, and the US support of them, that made it possible for future dictators like Fidel Castro to gain control of the countries that they were driven out of. Being in league, and in bed, with dictators like Marchado and later Batista didn't play to well with the majority of the Cuban people who greatly suffered under them. In the end it not only turned them against the US but also,like in the case of Fidel Castro, welcomed Soviet support that also endangered the security of those very countries, like the USA, who during the hight of the Cold War whole heartily as well as foolishly supported them.
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