• Telluride Film Festival

  • Miami Int'l Film Festival

    Best Documentary
  • Platino Awards

    Best Documentary
  • Cinema Writers Circle Awards Spain

    Nominee Best Documentary
  • Costa Rica Int'l Film Festival

    Best Feature of Central America and the Caribbeans
  • San Sebastian Int'l Film Festival

    Horizontes Award Nominee
  • It's All True Doc Film Festival

    Best Feature Nominee
  • José María Forqué Awards

    Best Documentary Nominee

Spanish with English subtitles

With Heberto Padilla, Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jorge Edwards, Carlos Fuentes, Fidel Castro

Why you must-see this film. Because back in 1971, the affair was a global public outrage where more than 60 intellectuals, including Susan Sontag, Alberto Moravia, Jean-Paul Sartre, Mario Vargas Llosa, Marguerite Duras, Julio Cortázar, and more, complained against Padilla’s incarceration. Because the real footage was smuggled out of Cuba in a way director Pavel Giroud declines to reveal. And because film critic Ruby Rich says, “It may well be the most original documentary of the year.”

In the spring of 1971 in Havana, poet Heberto Padilla is released from prison and attends a Cuban writers’ guild meeting. During the gathering, he delivers what he describes as a “heartfelt self-criticism,” admitting to being a counterrevolutionary agent and accusing many colleagues, including his wife, of the same offense.

Just a month earlier, Padilla’s arrest on charges of endangering the security of the Cuban state had sparked a global response from the intellectual community. Supporters, who had previously sympathized with Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution, wrote a letter demanding the poet’s freedom. Padilla’s only “sin” was expressing dissent and criticism through his poetry.

The Padilla Affair, punctuated by interventions from Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jorge Edwards, Carlos Fuentes, and Fidel Castro, stands as an astonishing documentary. It provides a window into exploring facets of Cuba’s history that continue to resonate in the present.


“The filmmaker manages to turn the viewer into a detective and editor of the film. Has Heberto Padilla been brainwashed? Pure manipulation? Survival? Real change of heart? The Padilla Affair refuses to remain silent in the face of the injustices of any regime disrespectful of true democracy and the necessary freedom of creation. Pure and raw cinema depicting reality.” – CARLOS LOUREDA, Fotogramas

The Padilla Affair is beautiful and chilling, and as historical as it is contemporary. It may well be the most original documentary of the year.” – Ruby Rich, Film Quaterly

“A fascinating and grotesque political theater, as a histrionic poet, hitting key beats – his selfishness, smugness and vanity – proves incapable of avoiding contradictions while calling on his dissident friends, including his own wife, writer Belka Cuza Malé, to come to the table and recant with him.” – John Hopewell, Variety

“The unedited footage of Padilla’s self-criticism— it is truly horrifying. Giroud further supplements Padilla’s punishing speech with archival news and interview footage that adds relevant context, drawn straight from other primary sources. Very highly recommended.” – J.B. Spins

“A luminous and at the same time disturbing portrait, exposing one of the darkest episodes in exercising totalitarianism.” – Alejandro Alemán, El Universal

“Director Pavel Giroud reconstructs and uncovers, with sharp lucidity, one of the worst totalitarian charades in the intellectual history of our continent. ” – Ernesto Diezmartinez, Letras Libres

“A very harsh and disturbing portrait of fear.” – Elsa Fernández Santos, El Pais

About the Director
Pavel Giroud was born in Havana. He graduated from Cuba’s High Institute of Design. His first feature The Silly Age (2006) was selected Best Cuban Film of the Year by the Cuban Critics Association. Other credits include Three Times Two (2004) and The Companion (2016), which won the Best Project Award at San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum for its screenplay.

Based now in Madrid, Spain, his films have premiered in Toronto, Busan, Toulouse, San Sebastian, Malaga, and Miami, among other festivals. Pavel Giroud has been designated twice as the Cuban entry for Best Foreign Picture and has received nominations for the Goya, Platino, and José María Forqué Awards. The Padilla Affair is his sixth feature film.

Notes on Film

“The origin of the tape containing Heberto Padilla’s self-criticism is a tale deserving its own film, though not the focus of this one. Initially uninterested in the footage, I later realized its significance, particularly having not read Padilla’s works. With the onset of the Covid pandemic and a surge in repression against journalists and artists in my home country, I found a connection between 1971 and the present day.

Driven by the desire to “tell” rather than “reinvent” the story, I committed to using only archival footage. Despite numerous willing witnesses globally, I opted not to conduct interviews, seeking instead to present a wise and collected perspective over time. My extensive research during the pandemic, accessing new online resources like the CIA archives and USSR film archives, allowed me to delve into Fidel Castro’s speeches and uncover a historical document locked away in Cuban archives for half a century.

This film stands as a testament to historical truths, challenging perceptions of the Cuban Revolution, supported by a document that remained hidden for decades. It serves as an eye-opener, prompting some to reconsider their views on the so-called Cuban Revolution.”

– Pavel Giroud, Director