Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yank Tanks - UPDATED

I recently rented the 2002 movie Yank Tanks from NetFlix. If you are a fan of classic car or if you are curious about how these cars are still on Cuban roads nearly a half century after replacement parts dried up then see this film.

Fortunately there is very little about politics in the film. There are some vague references to the lack of parts due to the embargo (needless to say there wouldn't be an embargo if there were democracy in Cuba, so the root cause is castro not the United States) though one of the interviewees is pretty clear about the fact that automobilistic culture in Cuba will not recover unless the "system" changes. In other words as long as the decrepit old fart is still power.

I started watching the film for a second time with the director's commentary and there you will find some more references to the embargo and more of the typical naive arguments about Cuban education and healthcare. But it doesn't change the overall quality of the actual film.

Another highlight is the use of at least 3 Orishas tunes in the movie. Rent Yank Tanks and let me know what you think.


I forgot to mention the most memorable scene in the film. During the course of the film we see the different types of auto repair that go on in Cuba. The body shop, the engine mechanic, the windshield shop and finally the brake shop. The brake mechanic shows the filmmakers how he manufactures brake pads from scratch using ASBESTOS! He's pouring raw asbestos into a mixture that will later poured into a mold but he's not wearing any mask, no protective gear, NOTHING. At the end of the film the filmmaker gathers 3 of the mechanics to have a frank discussion about cars in Cuba and he asks the brake man about asbestos and if he knew that it's a carcinogen. The man answers that he did but that he has to eat and his family has to eat. Imagine a system so terrible that you would risk your life just to make a living AS A MECHANIC.

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