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Winter 2005
Adriana Bosch
Photo by Carl Juste
Read about other Tufts Newsmakers

Capturing Castro

Documentary filmmaker Adriana Bosch tackles the myths behind one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic leaders

As a producer for the acclaimed public television series American Experience, Adriana Bosch, F80, F84, has worked on various programs about important leaders—from Ulysses S. Grant to Ronald Reagan. Now she has finished her dream project, a two-hour documentary on Fidel Castro.

“As a Cuban-American, I have found a subject close to my heart,” Bosch says. “Fidel is a character who has been at the center of my life experience.”

Simply titled Fidel Castro, the documentary takes a close look at the controversial Cuban leader, from his days as a student to the revolution that he fathered to his role in world politics and dealings with the U.S. What emerges is a compelling picture of a man who still remains a fascinating subject.

“He has a brilliant mind and is very savvy,” says Bosch. “This comes from an intersection of two things—his Jesuit education, which taught him how to argue about anything, and his conspiratorial background, which began at university.”

Bosch is well acquainted with Castro’s famed oratorical skills. “He has this ability to create the most cogent and convincing argument based on a premise that is completely false,” she says. “You come out with your head spinning.”

But the conspiratorial aspect of Castro’s character was what Bosch found most surprising. “Beginning at university, when he was twice accused of murder, he never developed any other way of looking at politics,” she says. “For him, politics equals conspiracy, manipulating government, and public opinion.” One long-time CIA rival confided in Bosch, “Like a master at chess, he has managed to stay two and three moves ahead.”

And to what does she credit his longevity? Charisma and anti-Americanism, she says. “The U.S. has given him luster. Wherever he goes he’s seen as an embodiment of resistance to the U.S. This plays very well in the world and is what still makes him popular. In terms of his power in Cuba, he was swept to power by a popular revolution against a dictator, inspiring his people with promises of social justice and national greatness, and then he instituted a state apparatus to rival any in Eastern Europe and the costs of opposing his rule are very high.

Born in Cuba, Bosch left for Spain with her family in 1968 and then moved to the U.S. in 1970. After receiving a BA from Rutgers University, with plans to become a teacher, she arrived at the Fletcher School, where she earned an MA in 1980 and a PhD in 1984.

At Fletcher, she decided to focus her dissertation on the Carter administration’s policy in Latin America. Six weeks before defending it, she heard that WGBH was doing a series on Central America and was looking for an associate producer. Bosch, who wasn’t sure what an associate producer did but knew all about the subject matter, decided to apply. Dissuaded by the first person she spoke with, she persevered and was hired by another as an associate series editor. She planned to stick with the job until she secured a teaching position, but something happened: she fell in love with television.

“The first time I could identify in a piece a paragraph I had written, it was love at first sight,” says Bosch. “The discipline that goes into a show, the synthesis, its rhythm, is just so seductive.”

Television, according to Bosch, is about “a bunch of compulsive nuts working to make everything perfect.” But she isn’t complaining. Even with spending days on the road to conduct interviews or getting up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the light, “the joy is in the product,” she says.

Bosch stayed with WGBH, learning how to produce. She would go on to produce, write, and direct “Jimmy Carter” (2002), “Ulysses S. Grant, Part I, ‘Warrior’” (2002), and Part II of “The Rockefellers” (2004). She was series editor and producer/writer for American Experience’s presidential biographies “Ike” (1993) and “Reagan” (1998). This work won her a prime-time Emmy Award for “Reagan,” the Christopher Award for “Ike, Part I, ‘Soldier,’” and Peabody Awards for both.

The seeds for the Castro documentary began in 1994 when Bosch wrote a short narrative. The treatment languished in her desk while Bosch went on to direct and produce other projects. “Fidel happened at the right moment in my career,” she says. “Ten years ago, I didn’t have the experience that I do now.”

Fidel Castro might be her most important work yet. At first, it seemed like a stretch to have a show about a Cuban leader on a series titled American Experience, she says. But Castro’s impact on U.S. history in the latter part of the 20th century has had a tremendous and defining influence. The final film has a “strong American flavor,” including the bonus of hearing Castro speak English.

The task of getting the story right was not easy. Bosch had to condense 50 years of a complex life into two hours. “It was excruciating,” she says. “We had to be very selective with what we did and what aspects of his life we wanted to focus on.”

Bosch tried but did not receive permission to film in Cuba. “I think they’d had enough,” she says, referring to other Castro documentaries, including one by Oliver Stone. “Besides, we never gave them any reason to believe they could have control of the editorial content.” Instead, Bosch spoke with dozens of dissidents and other Cubans living in America. She ended up with more than 60 hours of interviews to choose from. In one case, a seven-hour taping ended up as a two-minute clip. But for Bosch, who felt there was so much misinformation about Castro, the story needed to be set straight.

“There are so many myths built up about Castro and the role of the U.S. in Cuba,” she says. “I felt a duty to tell the truth about the Cuban revolution and the man who guided it.”