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Synopsis: Frenemies is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of the close yet conflicted relationship between the United States and Cuba from the 1950s to the present. For almost 60 years it has been painfully difficult for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. With the loosening of some travel restrictions at the end of the Obama administration, many U.S. citizens visited the island for the first time. In Frenemies we hear these eye-opening experiences in Cuba, as well as experiences and insights from subjects who have had longer term relationships with this small Caribbean country. We also hear from talented but frustrated native Cuban artists living on the island. ​

Contemporary and historical events on the island and in the United States relate to personal opinions of our speaking subjects .The film uses their personal experiences to carry the spectator through a lively discussion that rebuilds the Cuban Revolution, achievements of the Revolutionary government, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Missile Crisis.Through their diverse and engaging analysis, audiences can understand anti-communist expressions as they still appear in renewed form in the United States nowadays.The film travels through history making use of archival footage along with footage captured in contemporary Cuba, and bringing the audience to 2019.

Frenemies’ subjects discuss the embargo. The Cuban people are hanging by a thin thread. Decades of economic isolation have worn out the island and the morale of Cubans who still resist to keep their sovereignty. Can any economy survive such an all-encompassing blockade? The United Nations has voted almost thirty times for the embargo to be lifted. The embargo is a human rights issue that affects 11.4 million Cubans living in Cuba, 1.5 million Cuban Americans in Florida and 340,000 in other U.S. states whose families remain in Cuba. Frenemies presents a compelling argument for why this embargo should be lifted.

Language

English, Spanish

Run Time

86 minutes

Directed by

Mirella Martinelli

Produced by

Elizabeth Coffman
Mirella Martinelli

Edited by

Mirella Martinelli

Cinematographer

Miguel Coyula

Director's Statement

Frenemies is a film for a cause: lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The film won the Audience Award at its first public festival screening at the Dunedin International Film Festival, January 2021.

This documentary is constructed from the point-of-view that history can be told by the common folk who live it; history is not a privilege of only historians. US visitors to Cuba, Cuban Americans and Cubans living on the island discuss politics, history and economy in this Latinx study of the United States relations with Cuba. Presenting a critical perspective on both governments, Frenemies blends archival and contemporary footage. The film interweaves music with personal stories in a lively exposé of this blatant violation of international law.

I am now a Florida resident. Like many Latinx whose heritages were marked by neo-colonial practices, I was born and raised in Brazil and have a Latin-American perspective. I observe how U.S. citizens are influenced by mass media and the political machine providing misconceptions of Cuba. From growing up in Brazil during Operation Condor, to the imprisonment of former Brazilian President Lula, I understand the impacts of neo-colonialism.

Frenemies rebuilds history and raises contemporary issues with thoughtful discussions on Cuban land reform, education, racial relations, contemporary economics, social struggles and the embargo. Cuban art and artifacts is used to show history through engravings, paintings and sculptures. Life in contemporary Cuba is presented in Frenemies with a warm and dynamic approach, alternating street scenes with visual arts and live music.

Decades of economic isolation have worn out the island and the morale of Cubans who still struggle to keep their sovereignty. The United Nations has voted almost thirty times for the embargo to be lifted. Frenemies bears witness to the embargo’s impact in rising poverty and shortages of many products. The embargo is a human rights issue that affects 11.4 million Cubans living in Cuba, 1.5 million Cuban Americans in Florida and 340,000 in other U.S. states whose families remain in Cuba. Frenemies presents a compelling argument for why the embargo should be lifted.

This documentary will raise questions in the spectators’ minds encouraging audiences to question a political and historical narrative that has been presented in a biased way by mass media and a vocal portion of the political establishment.

Director's Bio

Mirella Martinelli is an Award-Wining Filmmaker, born and raised in Brazil. She worked in the Brazilian film industry for three decades as an editor, screenwriter, director and producer. Mirella received numerous awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Editor. Mirella Martinelli worked as a film professor in Brazil and the United States, where she taught film at Columbia College Chicago and the University of Tampa. Mirella was awarded by American Cinema Editors, and her film Land of the Sea was funded by the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations.

Living in Sarasota, FL Mirella edited Pool (2016, directed by Leandro Goddinho), which received 33 awards in international film festivals, including Best Foreign Language Short Film at the Orlando Film Festival, the Audience Award for Short Film at the Tampa Bay Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and the jury’s Honorable Mention at the Outshine Film Festival in Miami. Mirella Martinelli received the Sarasota Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota Ringling Tower Fund grant and a Puffin Foundation grant to produce Frenemies.

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