Cuba and the Cameraman


4.5 out of 5 stars

What better way to kick off the new year than watching a Netflix original documentary, Cuba and the Cameraman?

In short, it's amazing. This guy, Jon Alpert, decided to follow the narratives of 3 human stories for nearly 5 decades. Writer. Director. Actor. And while it's no Hollywood cinematography but a guy with a 50-pound camera in hand who may very well have used Windows Media Player to stitch up the film, it just works. It's raw, authentic, and old-school simple. Throw in 50 years of footage with Fidel Castro revealing his bare chest on camera, and it's almost Oscar-worthy material.

There's just so much amazing in this movie. You literally see a 20 something guy turn into a 60 something guy by the end of the movie. Young Fidel to Old Fidel. The rise and fall of socialist Cuba. 

Moreover, it's a story about the human condition. People striving for better lives. Happiness. There's a woman that Alpert tracks down after first photographing her as a little girl. And then there's Luis, a slum resident who ends up in prison, but later finds success with hard work and determination. And possibly the fan favorites? The Borrego brothers—Cristobal, Gregorio, and Angel—old-time farmers with gregarious laughs that make anyone smile upon seeing them on screen. It's happy and sad and then happy again story with these brothers. But it's heartwarming to see the happiness embodied in these 3-old farmers. It's how I'd like to go down. 


The film ends in late 2016 right after Fidel's death, which is around the time I visited as well. I also witnessed much of Cuba's angst, joy, and uncertain future during my time there and perhaps that's why the film resonated with me. But the film depicts the essence of the human condition, which relates to all from the West to the far East.

Netflix's Abstract and the Power of Photography


You’re looking for a moment when you feel you’re as close to the soul as possible. That’s what good design is, when it liberates you, and it allows you to do that, to help you feel something very powerful.
— Platon

Who would've thought binge-watching Netflix on a Saturday night could produce enough dopamine and creativity for me to write a blog post at the late hour of 10PM? But that's what happened after watching two episodes of Netflix's new documentary series, Abstract.

Especially inspiring was the episode documenting the illustrious photographer and storyteller - Platon. It struck a chord that reinvigorated my creative juices because his portraits evoke such strong emotions that you feel like you are right there in the studio with them. What's especially powerful is his sense of purpose in his photographic starting with empathy, he's able to put himself adjacent with the subject's soul as a means to build a bridge to connect the world.

I truly believe in the power of photography. 1/500th of a second has the power to induce empathy in people to break down preconceived stereotypes. The camera acts as a bridge to turn strangers into friends. And it's because of my own personal experiences that I can truly confirm the power of photography.

Many times in my life, I was invited into a stranger's life simply by having a camera dangling from my neck. From rural Africa to exotic Asia, the camera was my best friend when I had none. It was the friend that introduced me to new friends in new territories. It gave me the confidence to break out of my shell to allow a stranger from a foreign land into my own personal comfort zone and through that, it changed my entire perspective on life.

In an age of excessive selfies and Photoshop, one cannot forget that a true picture remains one of the most powerful forms of design, one that still holds the enormous power to change the world.