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Brockley to Revolution Square

May Day in Revolution Square, Havana, Cuba. Photo: Anthony Bairstow

A young amateur film-maker from Lewisham is to have his first feature film, a documentary on Cuba, premiered at the Venezuelan Embassy in London on 8 June. Anthony Bairstow, 25, from Brockley Rise, was inspired to make his film Cuba: Defending Socialism, Resisting Imperialism after joining a work brigade to Cuba organised by the campaign group Rock around the Blockade two years ago. As he puts it,

“It was the instinctive thing to do. After learning about Cuba’s revolutionary history, I became totally supportive of it as a  movement forward for humanity. We brought a small video camera out with us to see what we could find out, and found the depth and range of political understanding amongst everyone we met about building socialism in a world dominated by imperialist powers phenomenal.”

Watching a baseball match in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Anthony Bairstow

He sees his film as part of a politically-engaged tradition of documentary making, saying that he deliberately set out to refute common misconceptions held about Cuba – misconceptions that he argues are deliberately propagated in the UK by a press that is hostile to the very idea of socialism.

“Since I was a child I knew that the media in Britain was dominated by ruling class interests and hostile to anything progressive. Going on the brigade to Cuba armed with a film camera was my attempt to try and break this domination. I wanted to find out the truth.”

I asked Bairstow whether he could make any comparison between Havana, an ethnically mixed city in a comparatively poor country, and his own corner of Lewisham.

“Well, yes and no. On one hand Lewisham is an ethnically mixed city but at the same time young people are killing each other in the streets with automatic weapons. That doesn’t happen in Havana. Havana is an edgy city, but it has a sense of community, peace, and people honestly have solidarity in their neighbourhoods.”

The film will be showing at 7.30pm on 8 June at Bolivar Hall, Venezuelan Embassy, 54 Grafton Way, London W1 (nearest tube Warren Street). Free entry.

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