Camp Liberation Army (1895). Photo: library of the National Archives of the Republic of Cuba.
Camp Liberation Army (1895). Photo: library of the National Archives of the Republic of Cuba.

The Netflix Original titled “The Cuba Libre Story” weaves together over 50 exclusive interviews with experts and eyewitnesses of Cuban history – both from within and outside the island. The 8-episode series brings together followers and opponents of Fidel Castro and his predecessor Fulgencio Batista. Viewers will hear from Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, former chief of Castro’s secret service; Nikolai Leonov, head of the KGB in Latin America from 1953 onwards (and Vladimir Putin’s former boss and mentor); from Marita Lorenz, Castro’s former lover; and Carlos Calvo, Castro’s former bodyguard. We hear from Cynthia Duncan, granddaughter of Mafia boss Meyer Lansky; Leonardo Padura, Cuba’s most famous novelist; and Egon Krenz, East Germany’s last head of state and personal friend of the Castro brothers.

“The Cuba Libre Story” is a multi-country co-production, including ZDFinfo (a German outfit), France Télévisions SA (the French public national television broadcaster), LOOKSfilm (Germany), Interscoop (France) and Format TV (Russia) – all collaborating to tell Cuba’s complete history – looking back at 500 years before the Castro Brothers, and ahead at what will come after them.

For the first time ever, the Russian state film archives of Krasnogorsk, the Red Army and KGB’s film archives, as well as the Cuban State Film Archive ICAIC, all granted the production access to their Cuba footage libraries. All used footage was newly scanned, digitally restored and re-mastered, from the Spanish-American War of 1898, which was the first war in history ever to be filmed, to the recent past, to tell Cuban history from a transnational perspective.

Funding came from the European Union.

Emmanuel Amara, Kai Christiansen, and Florian Dedio are directors.

The 8-episode Netflix Original series is currently streaming on the premium SVOD platform.

Below is a list of the episodes and a summary of each:

1. “Breaking Chains”
After four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, Cubans win their independence, but U.S. intervention at the eleventh hour comes with a price.

2. “War and Sugar”
Cuba flourishes thanks to sugar production, but relations with the U.S. deteriorate, leading to the rise of military strongman Fulgencio Batista.

3. “Gangster’s Paradise”
A source of illegal rum during Prohibition, Cuba becomes a haven for the Mafia, which seizes control of the country’s popular gambling industry.

4. “A Ragtag Revolution”
On New Year’s Day 1959, rebel guerillas led by the Castro brothers and Che Guevara succeed in toppling the corrupt, dictatorial rule of Batista.

5. “Making Heroes”
Heroes of the revolution include the Castros, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, but Fidel Castro’s brutality and radical leftist reforms divide them.

6. “Of Soviets and Saviors”
When Fidel Castro expropriates U.S. businesses and pursues support from the Soviet Union, the CIA sends assassins, saboteurs and invaders to Cuba.

7. “Secrets and Sacrifices”
Challenges mount in the ’80s as Cubans desert their restrictive homeland, cocaine infiltrates the government, and European socialism collapses.

8. “Moments of Transition”
In the post-Soviet world, the Castros find mutual support in Venezuela, but the Cold War’s conclusion brings the country’s isolationism to an end.