Exiles turn cold shoulder to Elian film

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Published Monday, September 18, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Exiles turn cold shoulder to Elian film



The Little Havana neighborhood that was home to Elian Gonzalez -- and a virtual village for reporters and satellite trucks during five frenetic months -- was back in the spotlight Sunday night, this time in a made-for-television movie.

The Elian Gonzalez Story, a two-hour special broadcast at 8 p.m. on the Fox Family Channel, was the first movie to dramatize the story of the young Cuban rafter boy plucked from the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day after his mother and 10 others drowned at sea.

But on Little Havana's Northwest Second Street, where Elian's life was recorded in minute-by-minute detail -- frolicking with his pet puppy Delfin, barreling down the slide and playing in the former yard of his uncle Lazaro Gonzalez -- the movie was largely ignored.


Cuban-American neighbors who for months showed their support for Elian by keeping vigil outside his Miami relatives' home said they didn't care to watch the movie because the previews -- and word on the street -- convinced them that Fidel Castro was portrayed as a kind leader.

In the movie, Castro takes Juan Miguel Gonzalez aside and asks him whether he wants Elian to stay in Miami or come back to Cuba.

He vows to honor his decision.

``The movie doesn't interest us. It doesn't tell the truth,'' said Jorge Oquento, 58, as he gathered with some 50 friends and relatives to celebrate a baby's baptism in the backyard next to where Elian once lived.

``That movie is made for an American audience,'' he said.

Marma del Carmen Cortez, 47, a seamstress from El Salvador, shared the sentiment.

But she said she hoped to catch part of the movie at home -- if only to reinforce her idea that it was distorted.


``They are trying to portray Castro as the good uncle of the show,'' she said.

``That boy was taken by force, and we all know it.''

The movie, directed by Christopher Leich, starts in Cuba a few days before Elian, his mother, Elisabeth Brotons, and 12 others set out in a rickety boat for Florida.

It climaxes with the April 22 INS raid on the Gonzalez home in Little Havana.

Among the beefs cited by several Cuban Americans: The raid -- set to the music of the group Buena Vista Social Club -- does not reflect the violent tactics of the federal agents, including the use of pepper spray.

And script researcher D.J. Canava did not interview the Miami relatives.


On Sunday evening, a heavy downpour and a thunderstorm battered the now-empty home where Elian had once played.

A handwritten sign that hung from the fence had this message:

``We want an explanation for the big lie in the false film about Elian Gonzalez. We are waiting.''

Sam Ciancio, 42, the fisherman who together with his cousin Donato Dalrymple helped rescue Elian from off the coast, said he planned to watch the movie -- between segments of the Dolphins' football game.

``I am a diehard Dolphins fan,'' said Ciancio, who is depicted in the film as the rightful savior of the rafter boy despite the boastful claims of his cousin.

``I guess I will be looking to see if the truth of this story will be told,'' he said.

Although Ciancio said he was shunned by some Cuban Americans for expressing his opinion that Elian should be reunited with his father -- he said Sunday that his life has been blessed for his fateful encounter with the boy.

``First of all, I have changed my whole attitude about foreign people coming to this country. I respect those who come here for freedom,'' he said.


Among those who had no plans to watch the movie: Jose Basulto, president of Brothers to Rescue: ``I am not a masochist. . . . It's tragic [that] what will remain of Elian is this film.''

In Allapattah, Dorothy Futch, 62, said she had also decided against watching the movie.

``We saw too much of it when it was going on. It had nothing to do with the community,'' she said.

Futch, who raised eight children, said she never understood why Elian's case generated so much publicity.

``So many parents and kids have drowned coming over here. It wasn't about this child,'' she said.

``It was just a bunch of aggravation. That's all. Nothing changed, especially with race relations.''

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 18, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ