Cuban Rafters (Balseros)

Director: Carlos Bosch

(2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 120 mins.)

In the summer of 1994, more than 50,000 Cubans took to the sea in a motley array of rafts and floating junk in an attempt to reach the Florida coastline. This superb documentary, which originated as a Catalan TV report, was developed into a full theatrical feature in 2002 by directors Carlos Bosch and Joseph M. Domenech. It focuses on seven separate ‘balseros’ or rafters over a seven-year period, charting their first attempts to reach America, internment in the notorious US military base at Guantanamo Bay, and their very different new lives in Florda, New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and elsewhere. The film’s theme could hardly be more topical at a time when stories of ‘illegal immigrants’ continue to dominate the world’s news headlines. Filmed with an intense sense of both immediacy (the directors are both journalists) and intimacy, Balseros provides a deeply sympathetic and detailed portrait of people who are shipwrecked between two worlds.

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