“Embargo” explores the lingering feud between Washington and Havana

Che Guevara keeps watch from a Havana wall in “Embargo”

How can adversaries relearn trust when their pasts are so disastrously intertwined?

This is the central question in director Jeri Rice’s “Embargo,” a compelling journey through the often-contentious relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

Rice (who wrote, directed and produced the film) set out to understand why and how our country’s embargo against Cuba has endured for so long after she had a chance encounter with Fidel Castro in 2002.

“I tried to create a utopia and I did not succeed,” Rice recounts the aged revolutionary revealing to her, a statement that ignited the filmmaker’s fascination and a 14-year long project.

The documentary seeks to illuminate hidden histories of the Cold War, including Richard Nixon’s relationship with Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and his links to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, while also warning of “a new Cold War” lurking in the shadows.

Bringing together new perspectives on both countries’ histories, “Embargo” joins the conversation just as the future of Cuba is fraught with new uncertainty. The Trump administration’s icy attitude towards the island nation will begin rolling back diplomatic progress in the Obama years with new travel and business restrictions taking effect Sept. 15.

Rice’s vision came to be with help from a tight-knit team of Venice-based filmmakers and creatives. Executive producer Suzanne Thompson, associate producer Sofia Balme, co-producer and cinematographer Mark Sali, graphic designer Taylor Barnes and editor Alexis Chavez were each integral to making “Embargo” a reality.

— Kelby Vera