Ochoa

  • 1992
  • 1 HR 24 MIN
  • NR
  • Documentary, Political

This obfuscatory march through the cesspool of Cuban politics seamlessly blends staged re-enactments of epochal events with actual videotape of political inquiries. Viewers unaware of the facts behind the execution of statesman Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez won't learn much here. As the film trots out dozens of witnesses and shapes their testimony around candid...read more

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This obfuscatory march through the cesspool of Cuban politics seamlessly blends staged re-enactments of epochal events with actual videotape of political inquiries. Viewers unaware of the facts behind the execution of statesman Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez won't learn much here. As the film

trots out dozens of witnesses and shapes their testimony around candid footage of the oppressive regime's grandstanding denunciations, the filmmakers make a case that Ochoa was martyred for his anti-Castro beliefs.

In 1989, former military hero General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez was the victim of a carefully orchestrated conspiracy launched by Fidel and Raoul Castro to eliminate the threat posed by his collusion with various anti-Castro groups. Through flashbacks, this courtroom drama depicts his incremental

ostracism and the dismantling of his public image. Once the shining light of the Cuban Communist party, Ochoa and similarly disposed patriots failed to reckon with the far-reaching surveillance methods of Fidel and his right-hand man, his brother Raoul. Ochoa's anti-Castro sentiments were recorded

long before his disenchantment could reach the coup stage. A trumped-up case against loyal Ochoa, spearheaded by Castro's hand-picked Chief Prosecutor, was deliberately combined with an unrelated investigation into drug trafficking. Tarred with the same brush as dope peddlers, Ochoa was denied the

dignity of a simple political crucifixion; his reputation had to be smeared. Yet, even though primed by police interrogators, many drug smugglers refused to implicate Ochoa. Tracing a labyrinthine chain of events from Panama and Colombia to Cuba, the government linked Ochoa to major criminals. But

of all the accused Cubans brought before the kangaroo tribunal, only Ochoa and his sympathizing government officials were executed; the much-despised drug dealers received prison terms.

OCHOA is a noteworthy filmic document rather than a satisfying documentary. Unlike Costa-Gavras, who infuses tales of governmental betrayal with swirls of suspense, OCHOA spins its web of intrigue in a flat, mockumentary style. Unfortunately, its blend of real and fictitious footage convinces us

of an inherent accuracy without leading us to any explanations. At times, one wishes Bill Maher of TV's "Politically Incorrect" would pop up with a smartass digression. The filmmakers painstakingly lead us through the most inconsequential testimony of the most minor players in this unsalutary

tale; they try to build a case against Castro through sheer accumulated weight of detail. The diligence of OCHOA's creative staff is really a dead-end: we're already familiar with the universals of government cover-ups, and this movie fails to provide the particulars of this one. If the point

being made concerns the ease with which the truth can be manipulated by powerful concerns, then shouldn't the specifics of the case be more clearly presented? More emphasis on the lies circling Ochoa's head, and his astonished reaction to them, would have made the protagonist a more accessible

character. However, this heartfelt documentary isn't interested in creating an emotional valve for the audience's frustrations. Its primary concern is to let the doublespeak of government toadies and bought-off informers speak for itself. The resultant agitprop is like a Cuban version of Court TV.

In this case, you wish that one of those know-it-all Court TV experts would interfere in the narrative and shed light on who's who and what's what and why this happened when it did. (Violence, adult situations.)

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  • Released: 1992
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This obfuscatory march through the cesspool of Cuban politics seamlessly blends staged re-enactments of epochal events with actual videotape of political inquiries. Viewers unaware of the facts behind the execution of statesman Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez won't… (more)

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