Nestor Almendros — born October 30, 1930 — is best known for being one of the greatest cinematographers of all time. He was indeed the favorite cameraman for directors Eric Rohmer and Francois Truffaut and was nominated for four Academy Awards for cinematography (Sophie’s Choice, The Blue Lagoon, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Days of Heaven). However, he also directed two powerful documentaries that together blew a hole in the side of the left’s tidy pro-Castro narrative, revealing the horrors of Cuba’s socialist revolution and the country’s shocking abuse of its gay community. One of these films — Improper Conduct — is included in the top 25 list of Best Libertarian Documentaries.
Almendros released Improper Conduct in 1984. This brilliant documentary ripped the lid off of Cuba’s until-then hidden anti-gay atrocities in such an exhaustive and credible way as to command respect from all corners of the political spectrum. Even the New York Times had to reluctantly admit “The movie’s tone is civilized, but the testimony is as savage as it’s convincing.” Improper Conduct won the Grand Prize at the 12th annual International Human Rights Festival.
The particular genius of the film is that it used the testimony of actual Cuban refugees, dozens of them, to gradually build a damning and irrefutable picture of what it’s like to live in a “worker’s paradise.” Through their stories, the viewer learns something of recent Cuban history: the revolution gone bad, the implementation of socialism, the exodus of a full ten percent of the population, the concentration camps, the Orwellian way of life.
This film was followed three years later in 1987 with Nobody Listened, a second documentary about the untold horrors Castro had inflicted on the Cuban people. The title reflects Almendros’ dismay that media elites in the West seemed to have no interest in covering what he was reporting.
Nestor Almendros unfortunately died in 1992, at age 61, before he could see that he had won after all. In the years following his two films, more stories gradually came out backing up his claims, including that of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, whose experience under the Castro regime was retold in the Johnny Depp film Before Night Falls. Finally, in 2010, before Castro died, he was forced to admit it was all true.