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Heroes of the Revolution

2:55 PM, Aug 3, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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He played Che in the movies, to the acclaim of the few who actually sat through the 4-hour eponymous flick (most of them in Cuba). Now his portrayal of the famous poet, physician, lover of Beethoven, and murderer has garnered Benicio del Toro Cuba's International Tomas Gutierrez Alea Prize, named for the island nation's most famous director and propagandist. Del Toro showed up in Havana the other day to receive his award with Bill Murray, James Caan, and Robert Duvall in tow, all of them there to do "research," presumably for another movie. Will they be filming in Cuba? "That depends on the governments, on the American government," says Benicio.

That may be sooner than later. The Obami have expressed the intention of "recasting" relations with the Communist dictatorship, and things are already improving. Last week, according to Reuters, "the United States said a Bush-era news ticker on the U.S. Interests Section building in Havana, which the Cuban government viewed as an affront, had been turned off."

At the awards ceremony, gushes BBC News, "Murray sang songs to union members packed into a room behind the group's main headquarters."

He then jokingly passed around a baseball cap to collect tips for the pianist who accompanied him.

"This is a show that will never be able to be repeated," del Toro said.

"Bill Murray singing, Robert Duvall with his flowers, James Caan sitting here next to me, with [Cuban actors] Jorge Perugorria and Mirta Ibarra.

"It will stay in history forever."

Charming! Though it's amazing there was light enough in that packed room for the audience to see Mr. Murray perform, what with the "austere energy savings" imposed by the government this summer: "Air conditioners are shut off in the dead heat. Factories close at peak hours, and workers go without their government-subsidized lunches." It's a wonder, too, where they got the strength to sit through his rendition of "As Time Goes By," considering what they're forced to live on. As FOX News reports:

Cuba's government dominates well over 90 percent of the economy and pays an average salary of about $20 a month, meaning some employees steal food, electronics and anything else they can at work and sell them on the black market to make ends meet.

Still, how long before this beautiful strengthening of ties has lefty elites, Hollywood and otherwise, flocking down there to sample the many delights on offer (only) to foreigners and Cuban government officials? And how long before President Obama himself makes a pilgrimage to that wonderful country, where blacks and people of mixed race are second-class citizens, where "the only jobs black Cubans have access to are in construction and cleaning . . . [where] Blacks are randomly stopped on the street by police . . . and are unable to denounce racism in Cuba for fear of going to prison for being anti-Communist"?

Benicio, Bill, James, Robert--Barry--any comment?