Award-winning journalist Jon Alpert first visited Cuba as a documentarian in 1972.
That was when he first became intrigued by the island, the culture the people and the prime minister Fidel Castro—who became his “friend.” This connection gave him special access to the Cuban leader, including the time in 1979 when Alpert was the sole American journalist traveling from Cuba to New York for the United Nations address.
Alpert’s relationship with the island spanned 45 years. As a filmmaker, he’s come a long way. Back in the day he rolled his equipment around in a baby carriage and used his wife and cousin as his camera crew. But now, Alpert’s latest work, Cuba and the Cameraman hit theaters and Netflix the day on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving.
Aside from showing his connection to Castro, he also chronicles the challenges and triumphs three Cuban families. The people, he told NBCnews.com were folks he just happened to meet. “They weren’t picked out by the government, they were picked out by fate. They were the people I bumped into who became my friends, who I decided to follow.”
The film documents the good, bad and ugly side of life in Cuba, beginning with the revolution and ending with the how tourism has changed the country with its wi-fi hotspots, ATMs, and tourists taking pictures in Old Havana.
It’s not lost on Alpert that everyone won’t embrace his relationship with Castro, who was seen as a pariah to some and an inspiration to others. “There have been many of them who have seen the film, understand that from my perspective as a reporter, that there is a lot of objective information,” he told NBC. “There are a lot of things about Cuba (in the film) that no other cameras have seen before, that tells a lot about the reality, some of it very unpleasant. So even people who didn’t like Fidel like this movie.”
Cuba and the Cameraman is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.