America’s long-standing history of strained relations with Cuba is documented in the self-explanatory “Embargo,” an earnest first film by Jeri Rice that lacks an incisive point of view.
Rice, who spent three decades in the high-end clothing business, traveled to Cuba in 2002 with a group of influential women from the Pacific Northwest, during which time she briefly met with Fidel Castro.
That encounter planted the seed for this documentary exploration into the blockade that had been in place, in one form or another, since the Eisenhower administration and, despite a partial thaw under President Obama, remains a going concern in the Trump White House.
Although Rice occasionally pops in and out as narrator, she dutifully defers to her extensive lineup of talking heads, with Robert Kennedy Jr., Sergei Khrushchev (Nikita’s son) and Lucie Arnaz (Desi’s daughter) doing the bulk of the heavy commentating.
Though we learn interesting tidbits along the way, like the fact that Arnaz, who also contributes a cover of the Irving Berlin Prohibition-era ditty, “I’ll See You in C-U-B-A,” has never actually been to her dad’s homeland, what’s missing is the sense of a contextual perspective.
“Embargo” plays like a freshman college paper that’s long on reference material but comes up short in establishing an overriding premise.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica